It was the video seen 'round the world, seven minutes of Keystone Kops-worthy exploits that exposed Santa Ana's sham of a medical-marijuana system once and for all.
The first image on the grainy footage, taken from a secret camera in the upper-right-hand corner of an empty hallway, is a hand-held battering ram smashing through the front door of Sky High Holistic Collective. Weapons drawn, a rush of plainclothes and uniformed police officers--most of them wearing hoods or motorcycle helmets--charge offscreen. A camera inside the dispensary's lobby captured officers pointing their guns at customers and employees, ordering them to lie down on the floor.
The officers arrest everyone inside the dispensary without incident, including wheelchair-bound amputee and legendary medical-marijuana activist Marla James (see "OC's Matriarch of Medicinal Marijuana," March 20). After a female officer wheels James out of the lobby, the video shows her crowbar-wielding partners ripping cameras from walls and dismantling a DVR machine. "Can we break some fucking cameras and make the boss happy, please?" one of the plainclothes officers shouts.
The Weekly has obtained full and unedited footage of the Santa Ana Police Department's May 26 raid of Sky High Holistic Collective that went viral in June. The footage contains hours of video from four separate cameras, not all of which were equipped for sound. However, footage from a camera inside the dispensary's lobby area as well as one inside the club's safe room appears to solve the the mystery of exactly what the officers were eating, as they confiscated box after box of dry marijuana and pot edibles.
And yes, the word "officers" is not a typo. Although the edited footage originally released showed only one officer munching on a Scooby snack while handing a treat to another cop, the full video clearly shows four officers gobbling away on what one of the cops calls "pretty good looking chocolate bars" that were retrieved from an open safe containing pot edibles.
Two employees of a Santa Ana medical marijuana collective tell the Weekly that Frank Barbaro, the former chairman of the Democratic Party of Orange County and longtime lawyer for Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, offered to help the dispensary secure a winning slot in the city's Feb. 5 2015 lottery--if they "worked" through him.
The employees, both a manager and a budtender for the Aloha Community Collective Association, claim that Barbaro became a member of the collective sometime last year and frequently visited the dispensary to purchase marijuana and edibles. Furthermore, they claim that on repeated occasions, Barbaro, who identified himself as Mayor Pulido's personal attorney, told them that he was the "person we needed to work with" if they wanted to "secure a spot" in the city's upcoming lottery.
Mayor Pulido (on right) and SanTana City Council friends
According to a federal lawsuit filed today, Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido conspired to derail a grassroots marijuana initiative in the city while soliciting cash from existing pot clubs who the Mayor allegedly promised winning slots in a Feb. 5 city-sponsored marijuana dispensary lottery. The lawsuit claims the payments were used to pay for gathering public support for the city's favored pot initiative.
Update: June 12, 3 p.m.: The Weekly has obtained footage from the raid containing what seems to be a surprising anecdote from one of the officers onscreen regarding the judge who signed the search warrant. Hon. Jonathan Fish has been an Orange County Superior Court Judge since 2008, but before that he was a prosecutor with the district attorney's office who specialized in narcotics cases.
In the footage, an unidentified Santa Ana Police officer is talking to another cop as they wrap up their raid on the marijuana dispensary.
"You ever work with John Fish, the DA?" the officer asks.
"He was just in when I got there," his partner responds.
"He's the judge that signed our warrant," the first officer continues, adding that he had just spoken with Judge Fish and had enjoyed a good laugh with him about their old times together. "He's the fucker that pulled into a gas station on our way to the Staples Center and goes, "Let's buy some beers and drink 'em out of a red cup.' I go, 'That's not going to be obvious.' There we are at an am/pm getting styrofoam cups and pouring our beers into them. That fucking blew me away."
The Weekly attempted to interview Judge Fish about the footage, but after describing it to his secretary at the North Justice Center in Fullerton, she placed the call on hold and then got back on the line. "He can't make any comment on it," she said. "Sorry." Then she hung up the telephone.
In an interview with the Weekly, SAPD Commander Revere said he hadn't seen the video footage containing the above conversation, but did confirm that all the officers he'd seen so far in the footage were indeed Santa Ana police department employees. Revere added that once the department had access to all the footage from the raid, it would be in a better position to determine if any wrongdoing had taken place.
"If they are doing anything else that involves misconduct, the chief will take the appropriate action," Revere said. "I want to investigate: if it's an ugly baby, it's an ugly baby, let's move on. But it's frustrating when we get a little snapshot of an incident where we're not able to substantiate or corroborate anything either way. Hopefully, that won't be the case in this instance."
Original Post: June 11, 12:21 p.m.: The Weekly has received footage from a recent marijuana dispensary raid that appears to show Santa Ana police officers eating pot candy and throwing darts after destroying--or so they thought--all the surveillance cameras inside the cannabis shop.
The video footage shows an officer stuffing something into his mouth and handing something to another cop, who asks him "What flavor?" The officers then laugh. The footage is too grainy to be certain that the item that the officer picks up from the counter of the cannabis shop is in fact a pot edible, although the behavior of the officers suggests this is the case.
Also in the footage: a female police officer joking that she wanted to kick Marla James--a marijuana activist and wheelchair-bound amputee who was present during the raid--in her "nub."
Orange County Superior Court Judge David R. Chaffee has issued a temporary restraining order against the implementation of Santa Ana's Measure BB, which created a lottery system to allow legal cannabis collectives to operate in the city. Chaffee's May 30 move came in response to a series of lawsuits by medical marijuana collectives that failed to win any of the 20 slots awarded by city officials in a controversial Feb 5 lottery in February, one of whose winners was Cypress Hill's B-Real.
Today, to the great dismay of medical marijuana activists everywhere, it's deja vu all over again. Specifically, U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller, who had made history by actually agreeing to hear the case in the first place, has ruled that the U.S. Congress did not violate the Constitution in 1970 when it ruled that pot is as harmful as heroin or LSD.
Rohrabacher, in one of the few photos where he doesn't look blotto or like a slob
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Once Employed A Pedophile) is all sorts of wrong, but about the only thing he's ever gotten right is his support for medicinal marijuana, which unfortunately leads to blowjob coverage by the national media. That's what's happening right now, as Rohrabacher, along with his congressional colleague Sam Farr (D-Santa Cruz), have written an open letter to the Department of Justice asking that Attorney General Eric Holder not prosecute medicinal marijuana patients or dispensaries.
"Hello, My Name is Dr. Greenthumb. Have you ever had the problem of running out of weed and just can't find some anywhere?"
--B-Real, Cypress Hill, 1998
At about 7 a.m. on March 20, a fire alarm went off inside a nondescript warehouse in the 1100 block of East 17th Street in Santa Ana, near the 5 freeway. It's unclear if someone pulled the alarm or if something else triggered the device, but there was apparently no fire inside the building.
When Orange County Fire Authority units rolled up to the location, sirens blaring, they saw no flames or smoke, just five men jumping into separate vehicles and racing away from the scene. By 10:45 a.m., police had obtained a warrant to search the building, which was locked--even the fire-escape doors had been secured with 3-inch chains. "Had there been an actual fire, nobody would have made it out," remarked police spokesman Corporal Anthony Bertagna. "Those chains were huge."
The mystery of the disappearing men was quickly explained by what police discovered inside the warehouse: more than 1,600 marijuana plants divided into various rooms for different stages of development. The sophisticated grow operation had its own intricate lighting and irrigation systems and was still under construction, although, for obvious reasons, nobody had applied for city permits to do the work. The total worth of the haul, according to a state marijuana-street-value formula cited by Bertagna, was $2.9 million.
Trying to keep patients away from crappy Anaheim motels
When somebody writes the book on how Orange County became the biggest battleground in the war on medical marijuana in California, there should be an entire chapter on just one person: Marla James. She may no longer lead the Orange County chapter of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the largest national group advocating for the rights of medical-marijuana smokers--she left that position after refusing to increase membership dues--but James remains one of the most passionate and articulate agitators in the movement.