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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Marijuana Dispensary Was Not Robbed Today. Here's Why Cops Got Confused

Posted By on Wed, Mar 6, 2013 at 2:20 PM

Who's the bad guy here?
  • Who's the bad guy here?

Folks reading the news upon waking up this morning were treated to a pair of attention-grabbing headlines: a firefighter was injured fighting the blaze at a marijuana grow house in the Inner Sunset, and in the Bayview, a middle-of-the-night botched robbery of what the Chronicle called a "medical pot dispensary" led to a hostage situation.

Tongues wagged and fingers flew among the Internet commenterati, especially when it was revealed that the "pot dispensary" robbery happened at 3:50 a.m. Legal cannabis -- and now a 24-hour weed emporium? Reefer madness, right? 

The only problem is that there are no dispensaries in the Bayview. Reports around noon today were amended to reflect as much, saying the robbery occurred at a grow house, not a dispensary.

Here's how and why we, and therefore you, were briefly misled.

The alleged robbery occurred at 3:50 a.m., when police responded to reports of a gang of men in ski masks busting into a warehouse. A trio was arrested within two blocks of the incident on the 2100 block of Jennings Street in an industrial/warehouse-heavy part of Bayview. However, a fourth suspect was still inside the warehouse, where four people were held hostage. The four hostages were released about four hours later and the fourth suspect was also arrested. had a front-page, above-the-rest-of-the-news headline blaring "Hostage Situation at Pot Dispensary," which is sure to get you to click. But the thing is dispensaries are banned in roughly 90 percent of San Francisco because, among other reasons, pot-haters claim those businesses breed crime -- and this would seem to be fuel for that fire, especially if a dispensary is open at 4 a.m. 

But again, there aren't dispensaries in the Bayview, and even if there were, city law says they can't operate them past 10 p.m.

This afternoon police said that the marijuana-grow operation, with roughly 1,000 plants, was legal. This means that the warehouse likely had a bulletin board or other obvious place where legal paperwork, identifying the grow as medical, was posted.

That paperwork also likely contained the business license of a medical marijuana collective that uses the warehouse to cultivate the cannabis. With so much paperwork around and the name of a dispensary on hand, it's easy to see how police might have thought it was a pot club.

The name of the collective possibly on-site was not made available to media on Wednesday.

It's obviously a lot less sexy for there to be a strong-arm robbery at, say, a farm instead of the produce section of a supermarket, but that's an analogous situation.

As for workers being on-site overnight: PG&E charges varying rates depending on when you use electricity. It's cheaper to run grow-lights overnight; hence, many grow operations are night shifts.

Also, robbing a grow house may or may not be the best idea in the world. A pound of cured, dried, top-shelf cannabis might net you $4,000 on the street, if it's divided up into small amounts and then sold, or $2,500 if it's sold in bulk. But hundreds of immature plants, or wet plants, or uncut, uncured cannabis? Such a robbery might net nothing more than a bunch of extra work for the burglars, with hours of trimming and days of drying before a single dollar can be netted.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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