Police arrested a Haverhill man Wednesday after he allegedly robbed a recreational marijuana store in the city with a BB gun, in what appears to be the first such incident since legal cannabis dispensaries opened in Massachusetts in 2015.
The alleged robbery occurred around 12:31 p.m. at the CNA Stores cannabis retailer on River Street, Haverhill police spokesman Stephen Doherty said.
Tony Hernandez, a 51-year-old resident of the city, faces armed robbery charges, according to officials.
Doherty said Hernandez initially made off with an undisclosed amount of cash and cannabis products. It is unclear whether the money and marijuana were recovered; Doherty declined further comment, citing an ongoing investigation
CNA Stores chief executive Rob DiFazio said in a statement that no employees were hurt during the incident, thanks to a quick police response and the shop’s security training and procedures. The Haverhill store, which closed following the alleged robbery, will re-open Thursday morning.
“[We’re] a little shaken, but the Haverhill Police Department was here within minutes and did an awesome job,” DiFazio said. “[We] caught everything on security cameras.”
DiFazio also said his company would offer support to employees who were present during the robbery, and review its security protocols with staff.
The Haverhill store opened to customers in November 2020; CNA Stores operates a second pot shop in Amesbury.
A spokeswoman for the state Cannabis Control Commission did not immediately provide a comment. An attorney for Hernandez could not be identified Wednesday afternoon.
Cannabis shops in Massachusetts are subject to exceptionally tight state security regulations, including requirements for numerous cameras and the secure storage of cash and marijuana. They also feature secure vestibules inside the main entrance that are separated from the main sales floor by a locked door that an employee must “buzz” open.
The alleged robbery with a BB gun appears to be the first in which a marijuana store was targeted for theft while it was open for business. Last summer, the Pure Oasis marijuana store in Boston’s Grove Hall neighborhood was looted in the early hours of the morning when it was closed.
In a handful of other cases in recent years, robbers have targeted individual customers exiting dispensaries in snatch-and-run attacks.