Santa Ana's Great Pot Raid

After years of doing nothing to stop dispensaries from coming to town, the police crack down

Santa Ana's Great Pot Raid
Illustration: Luke McGarry | Design: Dustin Ames

It's about 2 o'clock on July 31, a hot and humid Thursday afternoon, and Mike and Scott (who asked to be identified only by their first names) are kicking back in Aloha Community Collective Association.

Undercover officers posing as patients began visiting other shops that had yet to be raided. . . . All volunteers, receptionists and security guards were arrested and issued misdemeanor tickets for violating the city’s pot ban.

The low-key Santa Ana medical-marijuana dispensary is nestled comfortably in a somewhat-decrepit two-story building just off 17th Street, a couple of blocks from the 5 freeway. Rachel Garcia, a receptionist and budtender, is standing outside the shop. She notices two middle-aged men who look like typical patients approaching the entrance.

Suddenly, several police vehicles and a paddy wagon pull up. Garcia knows in an instant the two men are plainclothes cops. Sure enough, they signal to the arriving convoy by pointing at the dispensary. They command Garcia to go back inside, which she does, immediately informing Mike and Scott that police officers are outside. By the time she starts talking, one of the vehicles is already parked on the dispensary's doorstep, almost blocking the front door.

Officers detain everyone present at Aloha Collective at the time of the raid
Courtesy Aloha Collective
Officers detain everyone present at Aloha Collective at the time of the raid
A SAPD officer leads a plainclothes cop through the collective
Courtesy Aloha Collective
A SAPD officer leads a plainclothes cop through the collective

Mike and Scott have operated Aloha for five years, changing locations annually. They've previously been raided by the feds—the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), to be exact—and have had to contend with frequent code-enforcement checks. But never, they say, did they expect to be raided by the Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD). Yet there they are: Other than the two plainclothes officers and one person in a Los Angeles Police Department uniform, all the officers are carrying badges identifying them as Santa Ana cops.

Besides Mike, Scott and Garcia, there were three other people inside the club. All six were quickly handcuffed and commanded to sit. The officers refused to tell anyone if they were under arrest. "They said they were going to cite us," Garcia recalls. "It would take a few hours, and then we'd be out."

As it turned out, Aloha was one of the first dispensaries to be raided that afternoon, so the paddy wagon was otherwise empty on the short ride to the Santa Ana Jail. They could consider themselves lucky: Nearly 70 people would be arrested that day, many of whom would complain about cramped, even dangerously overheated conditions in the vehicle and, later, the city jail.

Some 24 dispensaries were targeted by Santa Ana cops throughout the afternoon. Seven were already closed when officers arrived, staff at another managed to flee the location before they could be arrested, and 16 others were successfully raided, according to a SAPD list obtained by the Weekly. A total of 68 people were cited as being in violation of the city's municipal code banning the owning or operating of, as well as volunteering at, a cannabis dispensary.

Once at the jail, Mike and Scott were taken to a holding cell; although the maximum occupancy posted was eight, the cell was already crowded with at least 20 people. Mike and Scott were held there overnight and fined $500 each.

"I have a history of claustrophobia," Scott says. When he complained to officers about the condition of the cell, he says, he was placed in solitary confinement for eight hours. "[An officer] threw me in a cell. I got put in a confinement situation for pointing out a human right. After she put me in the cell, she started putting people back in the chairs back in the big room."

Mike remained in the packed holding cell, where, he says, he was repeatedly refused access to his heart medication, which he hoped his girlfriend could bring to the jail. Garcia says she endured the same treatment.

"I was just more mad that I didn't get to put my daughter to sleep that night," she says, adding she wasn't released until 6 a.m. Friday. Luckily, her best friend was able to pick up her daughter from daycare. When she was finally released, her phone was already dead, but she was able to borrow someone else's to contact her fellow Aloha employees, who gave her a ride home.

Asked how she felt about being locked up overnight, Garcia had a message for Santa Ana cops: "Go fight real crime," she said. "Go raid the meth houses."

*     *     *

Santa Ana has officially banned medical-marijuana dispensaries from operating in the city since 2007. Police have only been used to support the city's code-enforcement staff, not to make arrests by charging dispensary employees with misdemeanor criminal violations.

In the years since the Santa Ana's barely enforced ban took effect, however, Orange County has witnessed a war on medical marijuana that has resulted in the closure of nearly all storefront dispensaries that were operating in other cities. DEA raids in Costa Mesa, as well as city-supported federal asset-forfeiture lawsuits against landlords in Anaheim and Lake Forest, pushed many shops to Santa Ana.

In the context of OC's ongoing potpocalypse, Santa Ana's civil-only enforcement has resulted in what is effectively a Wild West scenario, with dispensaries opening shop throughout the city in residential neighborhoods and business parks. Finally, on Nov. 15, 2013, the city took action, sending legal notices to every dispensary in Santa Ana to warn them they had 15 days to shut down or face civil and criminal penalties. The cutoff date came and went. The dispensaries stayed.

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72 comments
paullucas714
paullucas714 topcommenter

Whats the current status on all of these arrests?

qaiaa18
qaiaa18

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Apsara
Apsara

Damn....Well, just another reason I am happy to be expiated from the vile OC. Time to call my delivery dude and get some chronic delivered to my very doorstep, cause it's.......LEGAL up here.

serbialaw1
serbialaw1

I feel so much safer, now that there is no serious crime being committed in Santa Ana, that the police can focus on the "crime" of running a pot collective. Oooops. What's that you say?  That Santa Ana is safer than only 31% of US cities, and has rates of violent crime above the national median?  Nooooooo.  Can't be true

paullucas714
paullucas714 topcommenter

Just an another bullshit circus act that will result in a couple million dollars to settle. way to go Santa Ana! You're going to end up being the chumps that tip the war on cannabis into the favor of the patients and dispensaries and you will beat the wrath of other municipalities and agencies as a result. 

fishwithoutbicycle
fishwithoutbicycle topcommenter

I wonder how many liquor licenses have been issued by the city of Santa Ana since 2007. Hypocrites.

Bash
Bash

Santa Ana is a highly ethnic latino community. 

The drug cartels are getting hit hard by legal weed. They want it stopped so they can make their big black market bucks. 

Most of the council is of Hispanic origin. How much you want to bet they have their relatives interest in mind back in their families Country of origin? 

They are working with the cartels to shut down legal weed, so the cartels can keep their profits up. 

sweetliberty17761776
sweetliberty17761776 topcommenter

anyone saying pot doesnt alter your mind is lying


of course it does or what is / are the effects



NOW as a pro pot person I have to tell you 


you cant have your pot brownies and eat them too



If you want a bigger government you do NOT get to pick and choose how they 


nanny us



if you want the welfare state to exist


along with that comes a "Big Daddy" complex that the voters, might have not thought through ( I am sure it has nothing to do with being stoned)


but is none the less in our face


as you can tell by this story and many many others



The ONLY way to have a police force that is "kept in line" is to have a pro capitalist ( and thats what you want , when you want pot to be sold in stores)


economy


these mixed economies are anything less than capitalism 

opens up INNOCENT people to not only these tactics



BUT …..


THE POLICE WILL NOT BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS


we know even in a pro capitalist economy officers will do wrong


BUTTTTT


in that same economy they would be prosecuted just like you or me


because in capitalism there are no favorites


there are no police unions 


THERE ARE NO "WE TAKE CARE OF OUR OWN"


NOPE


THERE WOULD ONLY BE JURIES 

anzablazer
anzablazer

Marijuana Cop's are nothing but Modern day Witch Hunters. You should see them dancing around burning pot,  Slapping each other on the azz, Congratulating each other like some kind of big hero's.

anzablazer
anzablazer

If the police want to fight real crime. They should start with the bankers that launder the money for the drug cartels. Then you can work your way down from there to the politicians.

anzablazer
anzablazer

The Drug Wars are a Racket. As everybody knows there's been a sharp increase of Heroin Use in America. The United Nations is using our soldiers to guard the Global Elites and to big to fail Banks Poppy Field in Afghan which supply 90% of Heroin to the world. They had a Bumper Crop this year. The CIA are the biggest pusher of drugs. They flown military plane loaded with Heroin back to America to sell and Barter for favors. They've built a whole Private Prison business out of the Drugs Wars.

whhackett3
whhackett3

Just remember folks - when you say you OPPOSE legalizing marijuana you're saying you STAND WITH every major drug cartel in existence.  Here's a list of just some of those with whom you share your "stance!"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Mexico's_37_most-wanted_drug_lords#30_million_pesos_rewards

Stephen Schnack
Stephen Schnack

If there is one thing conservatives and liberals should agree on, it's to stop police from shaking down people and businesses for money.

reroe13
reroe13

what part about breaking the law was confusing to them ?

whhackett3
whhackett3

Just a thought but I'd guess every single one of the "anti-drug" council members has not only used pot but gets smashed routinely and has taken all sorts of money, directly or indirectly, from organized crime.  It's always amazed me how comfortable these bozos are literally taking the same stance as REAL drug dealers.  When organized crime supports your position -  it's time to rethink that position.

sadie.mcfarlane
sadie.mcfarlane

The travesty of a "War on Drugs" must end!  Too many lives lost or ruined for something completely pointless (except that it keeps the for-profit prison industry well-stocked with slaves...)

Sara Lyn
Sara Lyn

Elizabeth Martinez weak sauce

Alfred Lam
Alfred Lam

Pigs. Wouldn't your time be spent on real issues in our community? Loser assholes addicted to the teat of our loser unions. Get a real job and stop living off of union welfare. You couldn't work anywhere else you were given the opp. Fuck you loser, rascist pigs. Find a real job.What you do is embarrassing.

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

Now that we all know you get your facts from Mad Magazine, shut up.

paullucas714
paullucas714 topcommenter

@Bash Michelle Martinez has admitted to being a drug dealer.

llozano784
llozano784

@Bash You got to stop smoking that stuff.  It makes you stupid and racist.  

llozano784
llozano784

@Bash You have to stop smoking that stuff.  It makes you stupid and racist.  

BillxT
BillxT

"Hey, it's kinda slow. Oh, I know, let's go bust some pot dispensarys so we can shake them down for a few thou in fines."

Justin_Khase
Justin_Khase

@reroe13: What law would that be ? After you read Ca. Health & Safety Code Section 11357 come back and make another attempt at a logical argument. Until then, shut your suck.

whhackett3
whhackett3

@reroe13 Probably the part about the PEOPLE of California legalizing medical marijuana more than 10 years ago.  

whhackett3
whhackett3

You really can't blame the police for this one.  The fault lies with a corrupt group of local politicians catering to the demands of organized criminals while trying to make it sound as if they're all "tough on crime."

serbialaw1
serbialaw1

@dubyadawg I'll say anything I goddamn well please. Where are your facts, fucknut?

serbialaw1
serbialaw1

@dubyadawg I'll say anything I goddamn well please.  Where are your facts, fucknut?

reroe13
reroe13

@whhackett3 @reroe13 When Ca. say's it is o.k. but the fed say's no, is like my kid telling me what she is going to do does not matter  If

I like it or not

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

Try reading up to date facts, not bullshit from 4 years ago. Dumbass.

whhackett3
whhackett3

@reroe13 @whhackett3 Here's the COMPLETE text of the 10th Amendment "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."  This means if the Constitution does NOT expressly give authority to the federal government then all other authority rests with the states.

serbialaw1
serbialaw1

@dubyadawg You try, fuckface.  But I guess that would require you to 1) wipe the cum off your face so you can see, and 2) read.  Silly me for suggesting.

reroe13
reroe13

@whhackett3 @reroe13 My grade  is not important, I am 70 years old and have never been a drug addict, can you say the same

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

Oh my. You are so original. Wow. I just got burned! Oh, don't I feel so dumb now. You really told me. I am so hurt. You really are the king! The king! Idiot. Oh, you're ugly too.

reroe13
reroe13

@whhackett3 @reroe13 That is not quite the same as coming out of your pocket, he is just another ambulance chaser wanting money

reroe13
reroe13

@whhackett3 @reroe13 Your law practice must not be doing to good if you have the time to mess with me online...I am retired and do not need to chase the dollar

Justin_Khase
Justin_Khase

@reroe13: Your string of comments is proof that you're either a(n): Idiot or bigot (not that there's much of a difference in the two).

reroe13
reroe13

@Justin_Khase You must have been drugged up this morning when we was having fun, we have moved on now

reroe13
reroe13

@whhackett3 @reroe13 I thought that this was going to be a boring day but you turned out to be a lot of fun, thank you

 
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