Two gunmen were in critical condition after the owner of a Los Angeles-area medical marijuana business shot them during an alleged robbery, police said.
The shooting at the dispensary occurred at about 10:40 p.m. June 7 in the Walnut Park community in unincorporated Los Angeles County, according to officials at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The dispensary owner told local reporters he was in his shop when two people with assault rifles, body armor, and face masks burst into the business in an apparent robbery. But they didn’t manage to steal anything before he grabbed his handgun and shot them both, he said. The owner got off at least 10 shots, sheriff’s officials said.
A neighbor who lives behind the dispensary, Jasmine Chavez, said she left her home shortly after hearing the shooting. Outside, EMTs were wheeling the alleged robbers into an ambulance. Chavez said she talked to the dispensary owner after sheriff’s deputies left.
“His reaction was, ‘Wow, like, lucky to be alive,'” Chavez said. “He’s like, ‘I had to do what I had to do to save my life,’ and his employee there as well.”
Thieves often target marijuana dispensaries
Medical marijuana stores make ripe targets for robbers and thieves because large amounts of cash are often present. Banks and other financial institutions are barred from providing services to businesses that violate federal law – and federal law prohibits cannabis for any use. This means dispensaries must do business entirely in cash, and security guards are a common sight in the industry.
Hector Martinez, a neighbor of the Walnut Park shop and a former employee of another dispensary, said most shops have guards on the property at all times.
“A lot of money is kept inside, and that’s why they always hire guards and actually have to escort people with that amount of money out so they won’t get robbed,” Martinez said.
Push to allow MJ businesses access to banking
Politicians in California, Colorado, and elsewhere have pushed to loosen banking rules so medical marijuana shops can gain access to bank accounts and credit, but most such attempts have failed.
Authorities in Los Angeles County didn’t say whether the shop owner was operating legally, but government-approved dispensaries are hard to find there. Most local communities ban the stores, as does the county itself. The City of Los Angeles allows a small number of legal pot shops but has cracked down on illicit businesses over the last few years.
Sheriff’s officials said the two suspected gunmen were taken to hospital and treated for multiple gunshot wounds. They were listed in critical condition as of June 9, and authorities said an investigation was ongoing.