Is the Santa Anna Police Department Above the Law? Cops Come and try ta' snatch my crops!

Everyone is talking about crime
Tell me who are the criminals
I said everyone is talking about crime, crime
Tell me who, who are the criminals
I really don't see them

"Equal Rights" - Peter Tosh

The Santa Ana Police Department is undertaking an internal affairs investigation after being provided video clips showing officers engaging in questionable behavior during a police raid in June 2015 of Sky High Holistic, a medical marijuana dispensary in California.  That video can be viewed athttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTKTfUHfeKM

Attorney Matthew Pappas, who edited and produced those clips says the video shows officers eating food laced with marijuana, known as “edibles,” and seized during the raid. Officers also played darts inside the pot shop while apparently completing an inventory of the shop’s contents. Pappas represents the shuttered Sky High Holistic dispensary where the video was recorded.

The clips also show officers dismantling video equipment and cameras, indicating they didn’t know other cameras continued to record their activities.  Something doesn’t seem kosher here.

Continually, police agencies are expressing concerns and opposition to the legalization of cannabis, be it for medical or recreational purposes, because of issues of how it will be regulated and controlled.  The Sky High Dispensary demonstrates the hypocrisy of those concerns.  

No one doubts that there are legitimate concerns regarding regulation of the cannabis industry and its use, however when the police force which is entrusted to enforce those rules act worse than high school bullies, we have a serious issue on our collective hands.  These type of videotaped police actions undermines the legitimacy of calls for strict police enforcement, since they can’t be trusted themselves.

 The Sky High Holistic dispensary video demonstrates what occurs when enforcement is not supervised or when they believe no one is watching them.  Most notable is the complete lack of professionalism.  And it only gets worse from there.  These police officers abuse and violate a handicap person’s dignity and show there contempt for “regular civilians”.  The Santa Anna Police then go on to destroy evidence by dismantling video cameras and destroying the DVD recorders.  One of the primary concerns with cannabis regulation has been security issues.  These security issues involve the use and preservation of video camera feeds which are required to provide surveillance and protection.  There are other safety issues in play, but the police’s actions in destroying those items, not only appears to be criminal in itself, but it is completely contrary to the purpose of the required security measures.

It appears the Santa Anna Police then take it upon themselves to start using the cannabis – without consent or medical purposes.  This is clearly an actionable event since clearly it is an abuse of police powers, as well as clearly being theft.  In a rare glimpse of how the police behave when there are no cameras on (or perhaps because they were on) they are abusive, oppressive, and clearly acting in contravention of their duty to uphold the law.

Obviously, the Santa Anna Police’s actions are not indicative of all police forces.  However, seeing the police act in “private” raises many questions.  Is this incident a common occurrence?  Probably not, but we can speculate that it does indeed happen in other jurisdictions, and some may not be fortunate enough to possess the damning video.  Are the police properly trained with respect to cannabis issues?  Are the police properly supervised?  In the Santa Anna situation, we are not dealing with one or two bad actors, but rather it is pervasive and systematic.  These actions confirm the worse fears of any cannabis industry participant which are memorialized on the videotape.

 So perhaps this incident shows that perhaps those who are entrusted to enforce the rules and regulations in the rapidly developing cannabis industry, must also be supervised and regulated to ensure that the integrity of the process. Because the last thing the cannabis industry needs today is the fear that those entrusted to protect, are really the true criminals.