Pubdate: Wed, 10 Aug 2016
Source: Daily Pilot (Costa Mesa, CA)
Copyright: 2016 Daily Pilot
Author: Jeremiah Dobruck


Operators of a Costa Mesa medical marijuana dispensary that was 
raided by police in January sued the city and its Police Department 
on Tuesday, alleging that officers had no right to force their way 
into the Harbor Boulevard storefront.

The lawsuit, filed in Orange County Superior Court, claims that Costa 
Mesa police never presented a warrant during or after the search, in 
which they arrested employees and confiscated marijuana products.

According to attorney Matthew Pappas, who is representing the 
dispensary, Costa Mesa Collective, the city has refused to provide a 
list of the items the officers seized.

"It's just been quite frustrating," Pappas said.

Although medical marijuana is legal in California, Costa Mesa bars 
dispensaries from operating within its borders.

On Tuesday, city spokesman Tony Dodero said police did have a warrant 
to inspect the dispensary, which was operating in the 2000 block of 
Harbor Boulevard.

"I've seen it," Dodero said. "I have a copy of it."

He did not provide a copy to the Daily Pilot.

During an interview in February shortly after the raid, Dodero said 
police arrested five of the dispensary's employees. He also said 
officers found two large safes containing $6,000 cash and various 
marijuana products.

None of that property has been returned to the dispensary operators, 
though nobody arrested has been charged with a crime, according to the lawsuit.

The suit seeks return of the property or compensation for it.

Surveillance video provided by Pappas shows officers breaking through 
the dispensary's door on Jan. 27 and ordering a group of people to 
lie on the ground.

Pappas said police disabled security cameras that they could find, 
but a hidden recording system captured them questioning medical 
marijuana patients and unloading items from display cases.

Pappas showed portions of the recordings to the Daily Pilot.

Pappas alleges that even if police had a warrant to inspect the 
business, officers violated his clients' rights.

He contends the raid was used as a backdoor mechanism to shut down 
the dispensary.

The lawsuit draws a distinction between a criminal search warrant and 
a warrant to inspect for health and safety violations.

If police used an inspection warrant to justify the raid, they had a 
duty to notify the dispensary 24 hours in advance and shouldn't have 
forced their way in, according to the lawsuit.

"What they would normally do with any other business ... they go in 
and they don't have guns drawn," Pappas said.

Despite the city's assurances, Pappas said he doubts the warrant 
exists. More than six months after the raid, he said he still hasn't 
seen a copy of it.

Pappas has accused Costa Mesa of wrongdoing before.

In the days after the raid, Pappas said the storefront wasn't a 
dispensary but rather a Native American church authorized to use 
cannabis and other controlled substances in its ceremonies.

On Friday, Pappas backed away from that claim, saying the dispensary 
had planned to transition into a church but never made the conversion.

Pappas said he no longer represents the religious practitioners, 
known as the Oklevueha Native American Church.
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