Fire at SJ pot club may have been arson

January 12, 2011 7:35:58 PM PST
So often fires at medical marijuana collectives are blamed on an overload of electrical use or some other faulty electrical problem but a fire at a pot dispensary in San Jose could turn out to be intentional.

The fire started shortly after 3 a.m. Wednesday morning at a medical marijuana collective called Herb Appeal. Fire investigators say it appears the fire started outside on the porch and are collecting evidence to determine if it was arson.

"Her investigation follows a certain criteria and right now she's probably looking at accelerates and to see if there was any evidence of that," San Jose Fire Department Capt. Debbie Ward said.

The operators of Herb Appeal did not want to talk on camera but other medicinal marijuana managers are speaking out.

"This is something that many people use as a vital medication, there is absolutely no reason to see a hate crime take place," SJCBC founder Dave Hodges said.

The fire follows a string of armed robberies at collectives, which has some people questioning if the pot businesses are a magnet for crime.

San Jose City Councilmember Rose Herrera says under federal and state law the dispensaries are illegal and the city should reconsider her call for a outright ban.

"I think we need to be very careful about the kind of businesses we encourage here and what kind of impact that has on our city both in resources and the quality of life," she said.

Last month, city leaders approved a 7 percent tax on the sale of medicinal marijuana but have yet to put any regulations in place that make the actual operation of the dispensaries legal under city laws.

San Jose City Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio says regulation is essential to cut down on crime.

"Limited number, limited places, regulated and taxed and I think we are seeing the consequences of us not acting fast enough," he said.

For now San Jose is stuck in a gray area of debate. Last year, local law enforcement raided and shut down 11 medical marijuana operations.

"My plea to both law enforcement and city leaders is start treating businesses as legitimate business so that we have city services and feel safe," Hodges said.