Last Wednesday, the cops came for the Rev. Paul Cody. He's the president of Hillcrest Compassion Care, a rapidly expanding medical-marijuana collective, and this was the day officers and agents from the San Diego Police Department, San Diego County Sheriff's Department and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration raided 14 dispensaries and arrested 31 people. Cody and two of the collective employees were caught in the trawl, but when officers broke down the door of his co-op, they realized Cody posed a special challenge: A motorcycle accident 17 years ago left him paralyzed from the waist down.
“I told them again and again, I'm paralyzed, I have to be in the front seat,” he told CityBeat later.
Cody says he told officers repeatedly of his special needs, but they didn't listen. With his particular injury, he can't support himself sitting upright, and he has special requirements for how his legs are supposed to be arranged, which mandates that he sit in the front seat of cars. But Cody says cops cuffed him behind his back and shoved him into the back, where he slumped over. He says he has the bruises to show the damage done to him.
Cody has not yet filed a complaint, so Monica Muñoz, a spokesperson for the San Diego Police Department, said she couldn't comment on the matter other than to say, “We treat people as humanely as possible.”
A complaint is exactly what Cody and his fellow co-op owners are considering now. Some 40 presidents of collectives met at Hillcrest Compassion Care on Monday, Sept. 14, and they agreed to meet again every other week. Cody said that he's in consultation with several attorneys who will represent Hillcrest Compassion Care on a variety of possible lawsuits: They plan to sue District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis personally for the way the raids were conducted, Cody plans to sue over violations of his disability rights and they're preparing to sue to get seized marijuana and patient records back.
“I can only speak for the collective I run, but we want to get the best lawyers we can for this,” he said. “The collective has the resources to do this right.”
Other collectives may join in Cody's suits, or they may sue independently. Craig Beresh, the director of the Southern California chapter for California NORML, a marijuana advocacy organization, said his group has a team of lawyers investigating the legality of the raids conducted last week, and they, too, might sue.
Cody believes there were severe violations of civil rights brought on by the arrests, but he sees some upside to what happened.
When police arrested him, “they put us in this big room, and there were people there I didn't know, people who said they're leaving San Diego and not coming back,” he said. “Good! There are people who had guns, stores that had narcotics trafficking going on. Lock them up! People who are profiteering off of sick people are disgusting.”
Hillcrest Compassion Care and a couple of other dispensaries reopened the day after the raids, and they were met with long lines of members wanting to show their support. On Sept. 17 and 21, the people caught in the arrests will be indicted, and Cody said they have a large rally planned. Coincidentally, the 21st will also be the day Hillcrest Compassion Care has another first for local marijuana collectives: They go on the air with their first television commercial.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story had Craig Beresh's name as Greg Benesh. We apologize for the error.