Firefighters cut open an ATM as Sky High marijuana collective raided by Santa Ana city code officials, law enforcement in Santa Ana, CA, on Tuesday, Jan 23, 2018. The illegally operating medical-marijuana dispensary has gained national attention after Santa Ana police officers were caught on video eating snacks there during a 2015 raid. (Photo by Ken Steinhardt, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Were raided cannabis dispensaries targeted after police dispute?

SANTA ANA – Sky High Holistic, a medical-marijuana dispensary that gained national attention after Santa Ana police officers were caught on video during a 2015 raid eating snacks and making fun of a disabled woman, was one of two dispensaries closed by city officials Tuesday morning.

Sky High and Elevated Dreams, in the same strip mall in the 400 block of West 17th Street, have been raided and closed multiple times as part of the city’s efforts to crack down on illegal marijuana shops.

At about 8 a.m. Tuesday, code-enforcement officials and police officers served administrative warrants because both dispensaries were still operating illegally despite “continuing code violations,” police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said.

“Even under the new marijuana laws, you are required to not only get a city permit … you’re also supposed to get a state license,” Bertagna said.

Jennifer McGrath, an attorney for Sky High and Elevated Dreams, said she believes the raid was connected to the ongoing battle between the dispensaries and the city.

“It is yet another attack by the city on those locations and, coincidentally, while the city is actively suing the locations over permitting and licensing issues,” she said Tuesday. “They are trying to gain an advantage in the court case.”

Neither dispensary was among the 20 marijuana shops chosen to apply for permits as part of Measure BB, a city ballot initiative approved by voters in November 2014. Both don’t have state licenses, either, the corporal said.

McGrath said the implementation of Measure BB was flawed, with Sky High and Elevated Dreams unfairly denied permits. As a result, she said, the businesses are also unable to apply for building-code permits.

During Tuesday’s raid, authorities discovered large propane tanks installed without a city permit powering generators on the roof of the building housing Sky High and Elevated Dreams, Bertagna said.

Sky High was also red-tagged, meaning it was declared unsafe to inhabit.

Tuesday, officers carried items out of the businesses in evidence bags. Workers covered the windows and entrances with large, metal-door-like coverings meant to keep people out.

Drivers, apparently customers, pulled up and then, seeing the police activity, drove away.

Sky High has been the focus of numerous police actions since May 2015 when Santa Ana officers were caught on hidden video forcing customers to the floor, making demeaning remarks about a volunteer at the collective who uses a wheelchair and munching on snacks.

In the aftermath of the video’s release by Sky High’s former attorney, Matthew Pappas, three police officers were fired but have since been reinstated.

Also, Elevated Dreams has been previously served with a police search warrant for unpermitted electrical and mechanical work and partition walls, according to Santa Ana officials.

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