Cannabis shop owners suspect organized crime has a hand in the ransacking of dispensaries sweeping the state under the George Floyd demonstrations.
The standard opportunistic looting that retailers more or less everywhere in the U.S. have seen during the current unrest has had a different and suspiciously coordinated look and feel to it with the looting of California cannabis dispensaries. The national pot publication Leafly counts 43 dispensaries across California robbed since this weekend, and reports that “professional burglars” used “safe-cracking equipment.” They also reviewed security footage showing that “Two professional-looking men in head-to-toe clean suits were caught on camera in one San Francisco dispensary Saturday night.”
“It is devastating and it is a huge blow." In what started out as peaceful protests became riots and looting across San Francisco. @JDumasReports spoke with one business owner whose cannabis dispensary was looted. https://t.co/eCe5jkwJ08— KRON4 News (@kron4news) June 2, 2020
Here in San Francisco, KPIX informs us that the relatively new Nob Hill dispensary California Street Cannabis Company was looted of more than $10,000 of weed product (and their reports has video footage of the eight robbers in the act.) Multiple locations of the dispensary SPARC have also been hit, as described in the Instagram post below, though SFist just confirmed that the Mission and Eighth Street SPARC did reopen today. But that location is only staying open until 6 p.m. for the near term, and the Lower Haight SPARC and the Mission/Castro Love Shack by SPARC will remain shuttered indefinitely.
The East Bay Times makes the pretty broad statements that “most of the dispensaries in Berkeley, San Francisco, and Oakland seem to have been hit,” and that “sources said that every single pot retailer in Oakland was targeted.” We cannot confirm that, but the Green Cross dispensary at Mission and Silver informs us that they were the victims of a robbery attempt, and have since boarded up the shop’s windows (pretty slyly!) as seen in the after-and-before photo below.
And the wreckage at Magnolia Oakland saw that shop's shelves emptied as detailed in a social media post. Owner Debby Goldsberry tells the East Bay Times that the job was done by "20 men with guns," and openly questions whether the business can survive the loss. "We're a mom-and-pop shop," she told the Times. "We have no nest-egg. We have no Canadian backers or Big Cannabis money."
Robbed Telegraph Avenue dispensary ECO Cannabis owner Kevin Ahaesy tells KCBS Radio the suspects in his store's robbery “had a lot of cannabis paraphernalia on, like sweatshirts and t-shirts, so they were looking to get free cannabis, and they got it.” That robbery is a little ironic, considering ECO also runs a cannabis security service, so [shrug emoticon].
We should add that dispensaries are a particularly tasty target, not only because of the weed, but because they are all-cash businesses. Cannabis businesses are federally prohibited from having bank accounts, and are denied most forms of insurance too.
One “fix” to the lootings is the California Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) has rendered its license lookup tool inoperable, because the results displayed the street addresses of businesses. That tool was created so consumers could verify whether the pot products they were buying are legal and licensed, or underground market criminal pot. So the fix removes the address lookup capability, but is otherwise a gift to the criminal market, because the lack of a public verification tool makes illegal pot far easier to pass off as legal. The looting, or organized burglaries that took advantage of looting circumstances, exemplify how the new legal weed racket has unusual burdens with banking, insurance, and security that create high uncertainty.
Related: Which SF Cannabis Dispensaries are Open, Closed, and Which Ones Deliver [SFist]