SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) – Santa Ana, Calif. rigged a permit lottery for medical marijuana collectives and police raided other collectives to eliminate competition for the lottery winners, medical marijuana patients and a collective claim in court.
Lead plaintiff Matt Chou and Sky High Holistic sued the city, its Mayor Miguel Pulido and city employee Yvette Aguilar on Monday in Federal Court.
A grassroots movement in 2013 collected enough signatures to qualify Measure CC, regulating medical marijuana in the city, for the November 2014 general election.
The city then prepared a competing initiative, Measure BB, which included a “marijuana permit lottery.”
A city representative collected $25,000 from local medical marijuana dispensaries to support Measure BB, promising they would be included in the marijuana lottery, according to the complaint.
But Mayor Pulido and “other city officials” were taking gifts of limo rides and expensive meals from collectives that want to control Santa Ana’s medical marijuana market, according to the complaint. It claims that Pulido was seen at one of the collectives and “intervened with police officials” on its behalf.
The city measure got more votes than the grassroots initiative, and the permit lottery was set for February this year.
Several dispensary owners filled out multiple applications “to subvert the process and win permits,” which many of them received – including a dispensary “affiliated with Pulido, in which he has a pecuniary or membership interest and from which he has received money,” according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs claim the defendants conspired with police, city attorneys and other officials to create an enforcement program to shut down all other dispensaries, “that had operated for months or years,” so the ones that got permits under the lottery would have no competition.
The plaintiffs claim the defendants used strong-arm tactics such as shutting off water and power at competing dispensaries and “destructive police raids designed to cause such massive property damage” that the dispensaries could no longer operate.
Chou says he was standing outside a collective during a raid, when a police officer tackled and arrested him for answering his phone.
He claims defendant Aguilar ordered police to attack him because she knew he owned property where a different collective once operated.
Aguilar is listed as a community preservation inspector on the city website.
Plaintiffs Marla and David James say they were subjected to similar treatment as they volunteered at Sky High Holistic, where they are patients.
After getting a friendly judge in Fullerton to sign a warrant, Santa Ana police raided Sky High, destroying thousands of dollars worth of security equipment and furniture in the process. They also took thousands of dollars in cash and marijuana and arrested the Jameses, according to the complaint.
The raids and arrests were “specifically designed to exact punishment on plaintiffs without due process of law to ensure that Sky High Holistic, a competitor of lottery-winning collectives … was permanently closed and unable to seek legal redress,” the complaint states.
Plaintiff Bradley Idelshon, a licensed doctor, says police turned off water and power at a building he shared with a medical marijuana collective, causing its toilet to malfunction and damage his suite so badly he had to move his practice elsewhere.
The plaintiffs claim that soliciting money from them for fair permit consideration and then creating the rigged permit lottery and enforcement program violates their due process rights.
The defendants did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
They seek an injunction preventing the city from enforcing Measure BB against them, and compensatory and punitive damages for excessive force and municipal liability for unconstitutional custom or policy.
They are represented by Matthew S. Pappas of Long Beach, who did not immediately return requests for comment.