Costa Mesa Collective (CMC) filed a lawsuit yesterday against the city of Costa Mesa and the Costa Mesa Police Department (CMPD) over a raid that took place on January 27th. According to the suit, the cops, who arrived with guns drawn and wearing full SWAT gear, aggressively broke down the door and ordered those who were in the storefront to get on the floor. Additionally, the cops allegedly shouted the words "search warrant!" while ramming through the entrance.
But that's exactly what is at the center of the lawsuit: Whether the CMPD actually had a search warrant.
According to the suit, which was drafted by Matthew Pappas and Jennifer McGrath, the Costa Mesa cops pointed the guns at people, stole, damaged and destroyed property, and used substantial force gaining entry into the facility and while conducting a search and seizure operation. Nearly a handful of people were taken into custody and were held in jail for just shy of a week.
Pappas requested proof of the warrant within hours of the raid, and although CMPD claimed to have one, the department has so far failed to produce any such document. "This whole thing could have been avoided if [the CMPD] could have proven they had a search warrant," says McGrath. "But verification of the warrant isn't documented anywhere, so we can only assume they don't have one."
Thus, according to McGrath, there was no reason for the cops to come in the way they did. "They were in full compliance with all state medical marijuana laws, and health and safety codes," she said of her client. On behalf of CMC, Pappas and McGrath are requesting that everything CMPD seized—cash, cannabis, and cannabis products—be returned or that the collective be compensated for the seized goods.
This lawsuit comes about a year after the infamous Sky High raid in Santa Ana, where Santa Ana Police were caught on camera using force with people, apparently eating edibles, stealing products and throwing darts. Much like the cops in the Sky High raid, the CMPD was also caught breaking surveillance cameras and looking for other hidden cameras to destroy. "If the cops were doing everything legally and within compliance of the law, there would be nothing to hide," says McGrath. "They wouldn't have gone for the cameras."
McGrath looks at the situation with optimism, however. Although these cops seemingly were up to no good and have yet to produce a search warrant, police departments are learning from the Sky High case. "Cops won't ever go about raids as ungracefully as they went about [Sky High's]," argued McGrath. "They're definitely learning."
Costa Mesa is currently one of the cities in Orange County working on devising a medical marijuana ordinance to allow legal dispensaries within the city.