Police: Criminals targeting San Jose’s medicinal marijuana clubs
By Sean Webby
San Jose’s medical marijuana clubs are deeply concerned about being raided by narcotics officers. But in recent days, a number of them have been raided by criminals.
Four dispensaries and one marijuana grower were hit by vandals, burglars or armed robbers in the past week, one just hours after a City Council meeting in which the fate of the city’s cannabis clubs was debated. In the case Wednesday night, a dispensary owner was knocked out of his wheelchair by a masked intruder and robbed.
Police are investigating the possibility that some or all of the crimes were the work of the same gang or suspects.
Although medical marijuana is legal in California, an argument often used against the proliferation of cannabis clubs is that they are magnets for serious crime. There have been three previously reported takeover robberies of clubs this year. But most dispensaries say they have no such issues and that their businesses are no more or less susceptible to criminals than any other business with valuable commodities.
“Homes and residences are magnets for crime,” said Lauren Vasquez, a marijuana rights activist. “Maybe medical marijuana dispensaries have more of a risk, but that is not a reason to get rid of them. It’s just a reason to require security measures.”
After a year in which almost 100 marijuana dispensaries opened in the city, the council voted Monday to impose an additional tax on the businesses.
Just six hours later, about 11:30 p.m. Monday, vandals or thieves struck Elemental Wellness, a cannabis club on Charcot Avenue, which was closed at the time. Video evidence showed two men shattering the window and breaking in, according to police. It was unclear what they took, if anything.
Just after midnight, at Sensi Herbal Care, a club on Post Street, a passer-by reported to police that the front window to the closed business was smashed. It appeared nothing was taken, police said.
Less than 30 minutes later, police responded to an alarm at Holistic Pain Management Institute on South 10th Street, where they discovered a broken front door. Again, it was unclear to investigators what, if anything, may have been taken.
At 3:15 p.m. Wednesday, a home on East San Fernando Street was robbed by four suspects looking for marijuana, according to police. Throwing the 22-year-old victim to the floor and holding a piece of metal to his throat, the suspects asked: “Where is the bud and the money?”
They fled with some cash but no marijuana, police said. Responding officers found a pound of processed marijuana and some marijuana plants. The victim, who was unhurt, told police that he legitimately sold his cannabis to local medical marijuana clubs.
That same night, at 8:55 p.m., the owner of the San Jose Rehab Clinic, who is paralyzed and uses a wheelchair, was closing up shop when armed and masked robbers tipped him over and barged in.
The robbers bound him and took cash and marijuana before they fled the Saratoga Avenue club.
Anyone with information about the burglaries can contact police at 408-277-4166; information on the robberies can be called in to 408-277-4401.
Dispensary operator Kim Cue, whose club was robbed by armed men in September, said criminals targeted clubs where there were few regulations that require security measures and where police did not support the dispensaries.
She was referring to the raids of a local law enforcement task force against some clubs in recent weeks.
“So we are supposed to call the same police that are raiding us for help?” asked Cue. “The robbers know all this.”
Sgt. Ronnie Lopez, a department spokesman, disputed suggestions that police were not taking crime against the dispensaries seriously. “This department aggressively investigates crimes no matter who the victim is,” he said.
Contact Sean Webby at 408-920-5003.
- Calif’s 3rd-largest city new medi-pot battleground (sfgate.com)
- Marijuana: The Facts (socyberty.com)
- Chehalis denies application for medical marijuana dispensary (thenewstribune.com)