PAN's president Degé Coutee with defendent Viana Hagiu
Over three years ago Viana Hagiu had her health, home and her livelihood stripped from her when she was arrested for doing what thousands of people are doing throughout Los Angeles. She was a director of a medical marijuana dispensary in LA’s San Fernando Valley.
On August 25, 2009, the Devonshire Division of the Los Angeles Police Department raided Cannamed Of Northridge, a dispensary in the north end of the Valley. At about 5:30 p.m. several vans and SUV’s along with nearly 20 officers, most in SWAT-style gear, surrounded the small shop at gunpoint and ordered its occupants outside to be detained. Officers rushed the facility to execute a search warrant that turned up $120.00 in cash and less than 4 lbs. of dried cannabis flowers.
Viana was eventually brought back into the shop where she was interrogated about money, other directors and the few cannabis plants on-site. She says that several times during the interrogation LAPD Narcotics Officer Kenneth Lewis told her “shut your pie hole you bitch” and “shut the fuck up, bitch.”
Officer Lewis then asked Viana who was at her home. “I told him my disabled, adult daughter was at the house,” states Viana. “I told him she was bipolar, schizophrenic, suicidal and begged him not to break down the door. I offered him my house keys,” Viana continues.
When Lewis told her he didn’t care, Viana, who was still handcuffed, said she began to get dizzy and a bad headache, her speech became slurred. She requested her blood pressure medication. She states an officer got the pills from her purse, put the bottle in front her but never gave her one. She was booked at the Devonshire Division where she was forced to sign a confession while nearly fainting and without her glasses – being told by officers she was only signing for her personal possessions.
Viana continued to complain of a headache and needing her blood pressure medication. Officers at the Devonshire Division stated that no nurse was at their facility and transferred Viana to the Van Nuys jail to be seen by that jail’s nurse. “My blood pressure was 258/222 and my pulse was 122,” Viana recalls. “The nurse told officers ‘take her to ER right now’.” She spent the night in ER under close observation of doctors and police. The following morning her bail was set for $50,000 because officers claimed she had 50 lbs. and once paid, Viana was released.
Cannamed’s directors state they held all of the appropriate permits and licenses required by the State of California and the City of Los Angeles including participating in the City’s moratorium registration. They say they paid all applicable taxes and fees, were good neighbors and tenants, and enforced strict membership registration and policies. Cannamed still cannot understand why the LAPD spent the resources to raid such a small collective and three homes: hers, a volunteer and a security guard. For the last three years the LA County DA has wasted untold resources keeping her case tied up in court – Viana will not take any plea. “I’ve done nothing wrong,” she contends.
During the raid the LAPD tore the door off the frame of Viana’s home, ransacked the entire house, and held her daughter at gunpoint. As a result her landlord evicted them immediately. Viana has not regained all of her speech since that night in custody and continues to have other health problems. She says the raid, the resulting 3 years of legal fees, and the fact that her health no longer allows her to work regularly has financially ruined her.
Viana wants to continue to fight her charges, which started as possession with intent, those were dropped, and then cultivation and a gun enhancement charge were added. (The collective’s licensed security guard carried a gun.) And while she has never been charged with it, the prosecution continues to hammer at the judge that Viana is a ‘profiteer.’ “The amount of money I have to live off of is the amount I wish for these [prosecutors and police],” states Viana.
Those wanting to make a tax-deductible donation to the Viana Hagiu Legal Defense Fund can do so at CannabisSavesLives.org. Get hearing updates, meet Viana and learn about the upcoming comedy fundraiser by signing up for email updates at CannabisSavesLives.org.