Hapless thieves target San Jose dispensaries for brazen burglaries after curfew
Harborside, a cannabis dispensary on N. 10th St. in San Jose, is pictured in this file photo. Photo by Adam F. Hutton.

Two San Jose cannabis dispensaries were burglarized early Tuesday morning by groups of thieves hoping for a big score — the latest crime spree in a trend of looters, burglars and robbers targeting dispensaries in the Bay Area and nationwide.

The pattern emerged as major cities, including San Jose, enforced curfews to control protests against police brutality sparked by the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man by Minneapolis police last month.

Many of those crimes have resulted in big scores for the thieves including groups that got away with at least $10,000 in product from one San Francisco dispensary and more than $100,000 from one dispensary in Boston.

But one group of would-be thieves in San Jose came up empty handed after a failed attempt. And a second group was only able to get away with a small amount of product.

The first group of approximately 20 that kicked in the glass doors at Elemental Wellness on Timothy Dr. at 12:07 a.m. — three and a half hours after a citywide curfew enforced by the San Jose Police Department — was driven off by a single security guard before they could steal anything.

And a second group of about 10 that pried open the front doors at Harborside on N. 10th St. between 12:30 and 12:45 a.m. got away with a few thousand dollars worth of edibles and cannabis concentrates.

Sean Kali-rai, founder of Silicon Valley Cannabis Alliance, says the thieves took advantage of the protests in San Jose against police brutality a week after Floyd’s death.

“There’s always a criminal element present everywhere,” Kali-rai said. “In this case, criminals took advantage of peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd and the curfew in San Jose and other cities to go out and commit these crimes.

“Thankfully San Jose has really strong regulations that help deter these kinds of actions and make it really hard to get away with,” the industry lobbyist concluded.

 

Elemental Wellness CEO Joe LoMonaco said the criminals who targeted his store seemed to appear “out of nowhere” after a lookout signaled that a security guard left shortly after midnight. One of the would-be thieves smashed the glass to the street-facing doors on Timothy Dr. and then kicked it in. The group — many of them carrying bags and pillow cases to fill up with stolen goods — then rushed inside, only to be driven back a few seconds later by the guard who had arrived before midnight for shift change.

“It’s funny only because no one got hurt and nothing was stolen — but we look at it now and it’s a sight to see 20 people rush in the front doors, then scurry out again ten seconds later chased by a security guard,” LoMonaco told San José Spotlight.

LoMonaco added that this is the first time Elemental has been targeted by burglars in the 10 years it has been in San Jose.

Thieves used bolt cutters to open this refrigerator and steal cannabis concentrates and edibles from Harborside in San Jose early Tuesday morning. Photo courtesy of Harborside.

Pedro Fonseca, general manager for Harborside’s five dispensaries, said his stores have been targeted before — but never by such a large group.

“Criminals assume that dispensaries are just filled with cash and product, but in San Jose, regulations are very strict,” Fonseca said. “And we follow them to the letter, so everything is under lock and key in the back — not accessible from the sales floor — so we were well protected.”

Fonseca said the thieves, who got away with a few thousand dollars worth of product, were taking advantage of the protests surrounding the killing of Floyd.

Floyd was killed on May 25 by a Minneapolis police officer who was seen in a video pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. The break-ins at Elemental and Harborside are the latest in a string of crimes targeting cannabis dispensaries in the Bay Area and nationwide since protests against police brutality erupted across the country in response to the video.

While police corralled peaceful protesters and enforced curfews over the weekend, several stores in the East Bay and San Francisco were also vandalized, looted or robbed.

In Oakland, the owner of Magnolia Wellness said in a Facebook post on Sunday that the store had been “robbed by an armed group, and lost nearly everything.” ECO Cannabis — an Oakland dispensary licensed through an equity program to benefit communities that were disproportionately harmed by prohibition — Blüm and Harborside’s Oakland location were also targeted by thieves over the weekend.

Berkeleyside reports that two of the city’s dispensaries — Cannabis Buyers Club Berkeley and Farmacy Berkeley —were hit by thieves multiple times on Saturday and Sunday.

Approximately 10 dispensaries in San Francisco were also targeted, including Dutchman’s Flat in Dogpatch, Dr. Greenthumb in Mission District and Moe Green’s on Market Street. KRON 4 reports that California Street Cannabis was robbed and lost at least $10,000 worth of product.

After two of its Los Angeles stores were looted over the weekend, national chain Med Men temporarily closed all of its stores — including the San Jose location on N. 10th Street.

Those crimes are also part of a nationwide trend of criminals taking aim at dispensaries with stores in Cleveland and Chicago getting hit.

Contact Adam F. Hutton at [email protected] or follow @adamfhutton on Twitter.

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