Medical Marijuana Thieves Find Warehouse in Northern Israel Empty

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File photo: An employee holds a package of medical marijuana at a dispensary belonging to Tikun Olam, in Tel Aviv, March 27, 2016.
File photo: An employee holds a package of medical marijuana at a dispensary belonging to Tikun Olam, in Tel Aviv, March 27, 2016.Credit: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

They came armed and ready to stage Israel’s biggest robbery of medical cannabis ever. Only there wasn’t any weed for the taking.

Tikun Olam, Israel’s largest provider of medical cannabis, told police late on Saturday that a gang had tried to rob its supply of medical marijuana at a site in the Biriya Forest near the Galilee town of Safed and left empty-handed.

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“A number of armed masked men arrived at 3 in the morning, threatened the guards, took one of the weapons and broke into the company’s warehouse. Fortunately, there wasn’t any medical cannabis there at the time,” said CEO Aharon Lutzky.

The robbery comes amid heightened interest in Israel’s medical cannabis industry after the government approved a plan to allow companies to start exports in April and enacted other reforms. Implementation of the changes was delayed amid concerns that easing export rules might increase the risk of medical marijuana being used illicitly.

Growing anticipation of the reform, which would enable Israeli companies to expand beyond the confines of the tiny local market, led to a rally in marijuana shares over the last few months and has created millionaires, on paper at least.

Tikun Olam is not publicly traded. It was formed in 2006 and is today a leading local supplier. It began expanding abroad four years ago via a joint venture with Canada’s MedReleaf and two years later formed Tikun Olam USA to serve the American market. It has a license to operate in Australia and has units in Britain and Greece.

The robbers’ timing was off, said a company spokesman. “The farm has space to store several tons, but the goods were moved to [another farm at] Kfar Yehoshua … The farm is secured by camera according to the strictest security standards set by law, but it doesn’t mean that an armed gang can’t break in.”

Lutzky said security guards dealing with armed robbers have limited options for how to react and operate according to rules he declined to detail. He denied that the company paid for protection.

The spokesman went further: “There are no protection rackets in the industry. There’s a dedicated police unit that supervises and inspects the farm so that for nearly a decade there has been not a single case of an arrest in connection with protection rackets,” he said.

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