The Costa Mesa Police Department (CMPD) is trying to pull a fast one after a lawsuit was filed against it for the illegal raid of a medical cannabis dispensary. Knowing they have little chance in state court to defend their actions, which were caught on hidden cameras, the CMPD is attempting to move the case to federal court because cannabis is prohibited under federal law.
In January, cops busted into the Costa Mesa Collective in militaristic fashion, pointing guns at customers and telling them to get on the ground. They immediately began removing surveillance equipment, but didn’t know about the four hidden cameras which caught them damaging store property, interrogating customers and seizing cannabis, money, confidential patient records and other property.
These seizures were done with no legal justification, as police Chief Robert Sharpnack said they had obtained an inspection warrant, “which is used to enter a premises to investigate whether it is complying with building, fire, zoning and civil codes.”
According to the Orange County Register:
“If a business refuses access, a city can obtain an inspection warrant and seek a judge’s permission to make forcible entry, but investigators can’t seize evidence for a criminal case, said Jen McGrath, another attorney representing Costa Mesa Collective.”
But there’s more. The OC Register has not been able to find any type of warrant for the operation, and Chief Sharpnack has refused to provide a copy of the supposed warrant used to carry out the raid.
Even if such an inspection warrant exists, it does not allow for the seizure of cash, assets and medical records that was recorded by the hidden cameras.
Cops involved in the raid, believing they had removed all video recorders in the store, proceeded to violate the law and the constitutional rights of people inside the store.
Video shows one officer interrogating a female in a separate room, attempting to get her to admit to a crime as she repeatedly says she wants an attorney.
“Were you being a lookout outside? Were you a lookout? Were you asked to look out for people?” said the unidentified officer. As she hesitates, he says, “…you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to…”
The subject then says, “Oh, ok, that means you can just speak to my lawyer then.”
But the cop continues prodding her, saying, “If you’re the lookout, then that means you’re an employee here. You’re helping these people out. Unless you care to tell me what your involvement is.”
Five people were arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and they spent four days in the county jail before being released with no charges.
Two hours of hidden camera footage was provided to the OC Register by the attorney representing Costa Mesa Collective, Mathew Pappas. Footage shows a cop breaking the ceiling open in the room and other cops looting the place for cash, including the tip jar.
The same cop who interrogated the female subject is heard telling another subject, “The reason why we’re here is because we’re conducting an inspection.”
But the hidden cameras clearly show this is not just an inspection.
In the main room of the dispensary, other cops are taunting a customer laying on the floor.
“Don’t be dumb, dude. Don’t tell me, dah, dah.”
Patient: “You asked if I ever got arrested.”
Officer: “I’m just asking a simple question. You ever been arrested before for anything? It’s a yes or no question. It’s not hard. I’m not interrogating you. Just asking if you had a…”
Patient: “Then let me talk to my lawyer.”
Officer: “That’s a pretty libertarian thing to say.”
Officer 2: “Who’s your lawyer? Call him right now. Phone is right here.” (Tries to hand a phone to the customer) “You don’t have a lawyer dude. I love when people say that. Who’s your lawyer? We’ll call him up.”
They can later be heard making jokes about the fact that cannabis is used as medicine, with one cop pretending to be the salesperson and another cop the customer.
“Looks like you’re gonna be busy counting money,” one cop says as he hands the loot to another cop.
It’s no wonder that attorneys for the CMPD filed a motion to move the case from state to federal court, which is an attempt to dodge the fact that their actions – unknowingly recorded by hidden cameras – violated the law and constitutional rights.
“Costa Mesa’s effort to move the case to federal court is meant to prevent any recovery for their illegal actions because marijuana is prohibited under federal law,” Pappas said. “However, the lawsuit filed is based on state law in an area that should be decided by state courts.”
…The lawsuit filed last month in Orange County Superior Court seeks unspecified damages and the return of marijuana, money, confidential patient records and other property seized Jan. 27 at the now-closed Costa Mesa Collective on Harbor Boulevard.”
The footage provides a rare glimpse into the modus operandi of law enforcement who feel they can get away with anything in their vendetta against peaceful people providing medical products. The Costa Mesa Collective was clearly a target for these cops, but the raid may turn out to be one of their biggest mistakes.