San Jose cannabis entrepreneurs say police don’t care about protecting their property, and a shocking video appears to validate their frustrations.

Security camera footage obtained by San José Spotlight shows three getaway cars easily maneuvering around two San Jose Police Department vehicles and escaping unscathed after suspects robbed Exotix, a South San Jose weed shop formerly known as Lux. It’s been more than a month since the robbery, and the owner said he doesn’t know if the suspects have been caught.

The police department said the incident is under investigation and details on any arrests cannot be shared.

The shop’s owner, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, said he feels betrayed by the city and police, in part because of the police’s lackluster response — but also because he believes San Jose should focus on protecting the legal industry while cracking down on the black market.

The owner shared the video ahead of a San Jose City Council discussion next Tuesday on cannabis fees and regulations. He hopes to highlight the challenging financial climate for dispensary owners in the South Bay — and how the city is not providing adequate support in return.

“I just wish the response was better. I wish we weren’t incurring the cost of it. I wish we were getting support. I wish we knew what happened to the suspects because really it’s all about safety,” the owner told San José Spotlight. “I’m worried what’s even happening with the drugs. Is it sold to underage kids? Is it being made into an products that have toxins? They are now out there (unregulated).”

YouTube video

The shop’s security camera footage shows a tall, slender man dressed in black/navy and lime green gloves throw merchandise in the back of a navy SUV before two individuals hop into the car. Then a white SUV drives past the navy SUV and pauses when confronted by two SJPD cars, as a silver sedan speeds between the navy and white SUVs.

The white SUV drives past the police, and the navy SUV follows, going over a landscaped median. Both police cars do not appear to move at all.

The thieves stole about $30,000 of cannabis flower when they broke in earlier this year — and it isn’t the first time the shop has fallen prey to thieves.

‘Police let them go’

An SJPD spokesperson said pursuit policies prohibit officers from trying to stop or apprehend the suspects. The police’s duty manual says the seriousness of the offense and threat posed to the community or officers by the fleeing suspects must justify the vehicle pursuit.

“In this incident, officers arrived with their emergency lights activated and attempted to block the suspects’ exit. The suspects made dangerous evasive maneuvers to get past the patrol cars, showing an intent to evade apprehension,” the spokesperson told San José Spotlight. “Under current policy, officers would not be able to engage in a pursuit of suspects driving in this manner for the crime of commercial burglary.”

Police said they received the call at 4:32 a.m. and arrived on scene four minutes later.

“By the end of the call, there were five units and a supervisor attached to the event,” the police spokesperson said.

The dispensary owner said the police didn’t even try to stop the suspects. Police were called before the break-in happened because the owner saw their cars patrolling the area.

“That’s the part that hurts so much — like we’ve been broken in before (and) we’ve accepted it. But these guys were caught and the police let them go,” the owner said. “They were actually cornered in the parking lot. And they were still allowed to just go.”

Cannabis robberies on the rise

Sean Kali-rai, founder of the The Silicon Valley Cannabis Alliance, said the security camera footage epitomizes a much larger problem of cannabis robberies across San Jose, where suspects have appeared to largely get away with the thefts.

He shared documents with San Jose councilmembers that showed at least nine break-ins in 2022 and 2023 where SJPD did not respond for 30 minutes to an hour after they were called. In many cases there were no investigations. More than $225,000 of weed product was stolen from those shops, Kali-rai said, and owners incurred about $45,000 worth of property damages.

“We (dispensaries) pay $15 million in cannabis tax to the city in addition to the normal sales taxes we pay, and we get substandard service,” Kali-rai told San José Spotlight. “We feel cheated. We sell legal drugs, that in the wrong hands could be harmful. We and the people of San Jose deserve better. Meanwhile the illegal market is left untouched. Saying we don’t have the resources is a ‘cop’ out.”

Cannabis owners have recently grown frustrated with the city’s overregulation. They say costly fees and taxes have forced cannabis shops to increase their prices to survive and drives customers to the illegal black market.

The illegal market is easily accessible in San Jose. Unregulated cannabis products can be purchased online or through various smoke and vape shops throughout the city.

This year two of the city’s 16 dispensaries have closed their doors, which shrinks tax revenue the city relies on to fund various services.

Kali-rai and several dispensary owners want the city to reconsider how it regulates and enforces cannabis in San Jose, along with fee reductions. They’re also demanding the city’s division of cannabis, which is part of the police department, start cracking down on the illegal market.

“The cannabis industry was the target of the war on drugs and now we are the victim by law enforcement,” Kali-rai said. “It’s a legal shake down.”

Contact Jana at [email protected] or follow @Jana_Kadah on X, formerly known as Twitter.

This story originally appeared in San José Spotlight.