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While many people would expect California to lead the way on legalized marijuana, the state is a mess of overlapping and sometimes contradictory legislation that can vary from county to county or even city to city. When Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom announced his campaign for the governor spot in February, he called the Golden State "the worst of all worlds" when it came to regulating the pot industry.
So it's only natural you'd have a California mayor taking bribes to protect some medical marijuana dispensaries while ordering police raids on others. Also, it's only natural for the officers conducting those raids to partake in a few edibles while they're at it. Wait, what?
Santa Ana Winds
All of these allegations are part of a lawsuit filed by Sky High Holistic, a nonprofit marijuana collective located in Santa Ana. Sky High Holistic filed the suit after it was raided last month, accusing officers who took part in the raid of excessive force and other constitutional rights violations. (Video of the raid went viral earlier this month as some officers can be seen eating edible marijuana products during the raid.)
The lawsuit further alleges the raid was conducted at the behest of Mayor Miguel Pulido, who the lawsuit claims received cash, limousine rides, and expensive dinners from other dispensaries in order to secure one of the 20 permits available through the city's lottery system. Pulido has denied all of the Sky High Holistic's claims, including that he has a financial stake in a competing pot collective.
Up in Smoke
This entire controversy comes by the care of California's patchwork pot laws. While the state's marijuana laws decriminalized medicinal use, cities are free to regulate medical marijuana as they see fit, and ban it altogether if they want.
Thus you have Santa Ana's Measure BB, which limited business locations, hours, and the total amount of permits available to operate a dispensary in the city. There was also a lottery to decide which existing shops could remain open. Sky High Holistic did not receive a permit, hence the raid, hence the lawsuit.
While this could be written off as sour grapes on the part of a closed pot shop, the case illustrates the need for comprehensive, state-wide marijuana legislation. After all, how will entrepreneurs know whether a marijuana startup is right for them if they don't know which laws will apply to their new business?
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