A San Francisco State student who delivers medical marijuana door-to-door was robbed at gunpoint just after midnight Thursday in Richmond. The assailants took $1,000 in cash and a pound of pot.
Aaron Chandler, 33, runs Alternative Rx Solutions, a business he describes as a mobile medical marijuana dispensary catering to lower-income, ill and disabled patients.
Chandler, reached later by telephone, said he received a delivery order through his website around 9 p.m. Wednesday for a pound of marijuana from a Richmond man. He traveled from San Francisco to an address on the 4800 block of Cutting Boulevard to deliver it. When he arrived at about 12:15 a.m., police say he and two friends were robbed at gunpoint of the product and their cash.
To become a member of Chandler’s collective, a patient must register using a medical marijuana identification number or upload a scan of a doctor’s recommendation. Chandler said he also asks for proof of identification upon delivery.
He said he never got that opportunity.
Chandler said he usually closes shop at about 7 p.m., but when he talked to the man on the phone, his story seemed credible.
“He claimed to have his own collective and said he had patients that were disabled and that he wanted to try to see me, but he had his daughter with him and his daughter was asleep and he had to leave early in the morning to meet a sick patient,” Chandler recalled. “He sounded really sincere, like a really good guy. I didn’t think it would be a problem to go help him out.”
Chandler said he, his girlfriend and a friend hopped into Chandler’s truck with the pound of marijuana the man had requested.
When he arrived, he saw a man in a black hooded sweatshirt standing outside a porch-lit home. He parked the truck on the street and walked toward the home. The man pulled out a gun and struck Chandler in the face.
Chandler said the man told him to turn around and kneel on the ground. While two others entered the truck and stole money from Chandler’s girlfriend and the friend, Chandler said the man rifled through his pockets and told him he wouldn't be able to find him because the medical marijuana ID number he'd used to place the order was stolen.
“And then they kind of surrounded me. They were just like, ‘Welcome to Richmond,’ and somebody hit me one more time across the back of my head and they took off running across the street.”
Having written about conducting safe transactions on his blog, Chandler said the robbery hurt his sense of trust more than his business.
Richmond police said the incident could have been avoided with common sense.
"We would dissuade people from trying to do these types of transactions, even if they're legal," said Lt. Mark Gagan of the Richmond Police Department.
"At face value, it's a very serious crime that these people are victims of. But if this was any type of transaction on eBay, you wouldn't be buying an antique at midnight under a carport."
Gagan said robberies at storefront dispensaries are not uncommon, but mobile dispensaries are particularly vulnerable to crime.
Chandler said he won’t make the same mistake again. “I really like to help people and I kind of get blinded by that sometimes.”
The San Francisco State student has already outlined new security measures.
“There are some places we just won’t go. Don’t do anything after dark unless you’re already familiar with the patient in your collective and only deal with patients in your collective,” he said.