Hidden Camera: Major San Jose Pot Shop Appears to Break City Law | NBC Bay Area
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Hidden Camera: Major San Jose Pot Shop Appears to Break City Law

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    NEWSLETTERS

    An NBC Bay area hidden camera investigation has exposed a major medical marijuana dispensary is operating illegally and possibly selling to persons younger than 21. Chief Investigative Reporter Tony Kovaleski reports in a story which first aired on May 8, 2015. (Published Saturday, May 9, 2015)

    San Jose Organics is one of the busiest medical marijuana collectives in San Jose and claims to have between 5,500 and 6,000 members. The city says the collective is breaking the law every day it’s open for business and has already served it with multiple citations. But the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit also found that the shop may be selling to customers under the city’s legal age requirement.

    In a hidden camera investigation, NBC Bay Area asked questions about the minimum age to buy at San Jose Organics. In the parking lot outside of the shop, the Investigative Unit approached customers, security guards and a person who identified herself as an employee.

    “What’s the rule?” asked an Investigative Unit employee. “Is there a certain age you have got to be?”

    “18,” responded the customer.

    The state medical marijuana law, SB420, allows for patients of 18 years and younger, with parental consent. But the San Jose City ordinances do not allow anyone under the age of 21 to purchase medical marijuana or even be on the premises of a dispensary.

    Several customers and even employees confirmed, on hidden camera, that San Jose Organics regularly sold marijuana to members younger than 21 years of age.

    “I’m 19, about to turn 20,” said one customer.

    “We will accept 18 and up,” an employee said on hidden camera. “Obviously, don’t come in and be like, I’m 18 years old. But they don’t give a [expletive]. For our purposes, so we don’t get in trouble, we say 21 and up because that’s the ordinance.”

    A former undercover narcotics officer surveiled the pot shop with the Investigative Unit. Because he still works with law enforcement, we agreed to keep his identity hidden.

    Through our undercover cameras, the officer observed customer after customer confirm that San Jose Organics sold to underage customers. “It’s totally against the law,” said the former officer. “They’re obviously doing a booming business. And the proprietors of this business are just skirting the law.”

    It’s not the only regulation we saw potentially violated with our hidden cameras. City regulations also forbid the sale of marijuana concentrates such as “wax.”

    “This is the spot if you want wax,” confirmed one customer.

    City regulations also stipulate that dispensaries may only be open between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.

    “We also say we close at nine but we really close at 10,” said an employee.

    Hidden cameras did confirm that statement. On several occasions, the pot shop was open for business past 9 p.m.

    Even the security guards at San Jose Organics appeared to have knowledge of the violations.

    “How old do you have to be to go in?” asked an Investigative Unit employee on hidden camera. “Is there an age limit?”

    “I think it’s 18 or 19, bro,” said the guard.

    The security guards are not employees of the dispensary, but the Investigative Unit did confirm that one of their responsibilities was to greet customers and confirm that they have medical marijuana recommendation paperwork and a valid ID.

    “Just get your rec first and then come here and talk to them,” said the security guard on hidden camera.

    “So technically you’re supposed to be 21?” pressed our employee.

    “Like I said, first get your rec…” said the guard.

    “It makes me very upset to see this being operated here in San Jose. It affects everyone,” said the former narcotic officer. “They’re an illegal operation of a marijuana dispensary.”

    Even before these revelations, San Jose Organics had no business being in operation, according to city records. In July of last year, an administrative officers hearing issued an order to the owners of San Jose Organics requiring them to cease operations on or before July 31st.

    Four months later in November the dispensary was still open. The city sent another notice, this time telling the owners to cease all operations and threatening criminal felony and misdemeanor charges.

    The fines the city has levied over the years fines exceed $100,000 in total.

    The long paper trail of threats and fines have apparently had no impact on operations thus far. But our former narcotics officer said he wouldn’t be surprised if the location was shut down once this story went public.

    “They’re definitely not in compliance,” he said. “And they’re definitely skirting the laws and they’re operating with impunity.”

    Calls to the owners of San Jose Organics were returned by a consultant, declining our request for an interview. In the meantime, the fines continue to add up. The city says its adding $1,500 to existing fines every day San Jose Organics continues to illegally operate.

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