Club had promised to limit amount of cash, marijuana stashed there
Four men stole $1,500 and $3,500 worth of marijuana from the Berkeley Medical Herbs pot club yesterday after two of them were allowed on site without proper identification.
The afternoon heist renewed concerns about the integrity of the club’s security and reignited some anger in the neighborhood.
“I think it’s a public nuisance and I think it needs to be closed,” said City Councilmember Linda Maio.
The incident marks the third time in a year robbers have stormed the medicinal marijuana club, located in a small brick building at 1627 University Avenue.
The last robbery, in December, prompted a rash of concern from city officials about security at the club. Medical Herbs responded to that by closing at 4 p.m. so it would only be open during daylight hours. The club hired a licensed security guard, installed video cameras, and it agreed to limit the amount of cash and pot on the premises, among other measures.
“They have made obvious changes but it’s just not enough because the word is out among unsavory circles,” said Maio, faulting Medical Herbs for advertising the club when it first opened.
Maio said other clubs in the city have maintained a lower profile and avoided robberies.
But Medical Herbs office manager Dorrit Geshuri said the club is determined to keep its doors open.
“We’re really committed to staying here because there are a lot of sick people who need our help,” she said.
Two Latino men approached the front gate on University Avenue Wednesday about 2:30 p.m., said Geshuri.
The men failed to show the identification cards that are required of every patient but were let through the gate because they claimed to know owner Ken Estes.
The security guard relayed the message to general manager Randy Moses, who opened the building’s main door to confirm the story, then closed the door without turning the lock, Geshuri said. At that point, one suspect pulled a gun and the other a knife, forcing their way into the building.
The suspects told everyone to lie on the ground. They took the cash and marijuana and fled, Geshuri said.
Geshuri said the club’s security cameras were out for repairs Wednesday. Police who had been scouting the premises to prevent robberies had left only minutes before the incident, Geshuri said.
City Councilmember Kriss Worthington said the club needs to maintain working cameras. He also raised concerns about the success of the robbers’ ploy.
“One of the questions that would concern me is, who cares whether they know the owner?,” Worthington said. “If they don’t have a card from their doctor, they don’t belong there.”
One neighbor who did not want to be identified said he saw the two men meeting two other men waiting outside in a late model, tan vehicle in which they all got away.
“The guys who robbed it ran out with a big satchel,” the neighbor said, adding that he disapproves of the marijuana club. “This is a very attractive place for other drug dealers to rob. It’s not something we want in our neighborhood.”
Geshuri acknowledged that a few neighbors are opposed to the club, but said most of the residents support Medical Herbs in its mission.
The had club pledged after the December robbery to keep no more than $1,000 and one pound of marijuana on site. But Geshuri said the robbers on Wednesday made off with $500 more than that and as much as a pound-and-a-half of marijuana.
The witness opposed to the club said theft proves that management is not keeping its pledge to prevent robberies and ensure safety. But Geshuri said the incident was an aberration.
“It’s rare that we have that much product on site,” she said, arguing that the club had just received a shipment and was in the process of dividing it up for patients.
She said Medical Herbs keeps most of its supply off-site, at secure locations.
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