Tensions are high between cannabis dispensaries and the SF police department, after cops seemingly watched a dispensary get robbed without taking action, but the Department of Police Accountability says it's launching a probe.
A very curious oddity in the ongoing discourse about SF smash-and-grab robberies and the “let’s beef up the police force” sentiment is how some cannabis dispensaries feel that police just don’t do jack anyway, at least when it comes to their storefronts. A late November break-in at the BASA Collective on Grove Street stood out because police seemingly just stood and watched the robbery, an incident detailed pretty starkly on security video. Just a couple weeks later, the Examiner reported that in the span of two weeks, "seven cannabis businesses in Bayview [had] been burglarized without a single arrest made.”
You won't be surprised to hear that marijuana dispensary owners feel they are shut out by police, a singular sector that is given basically zero priority by law enforcement. But the Chronicle reports that the Department of Police Accountability is launching an investigation into the BASA incident. This was disclosed at a December 28 meeting between police and dispensary owners, where the Chron reports, “frustrations simmered during a meeting Tuesday among cannabis merchants, police and representatives of the city’s Office of Cannabis.”
SFist attempted to dial in to this December 28 meeting. We were denied entry because, in the words of the SF Office of Cannabis, "we wanted to create an environment for honest and direct dialog between our permitted vendors and their local station captains, we limited the meeting to industry members.” But the Chron spoke to a few dispensary owners after the meeting, and it is fair to say they were unsatisfied with the conversation.
“They completely ignored us,” Green Cross dispensary owner Kevin Reed told the Chronicle.
Despite the supposed internal probe, police say the seemingly slow-footed burglary response was actually done by the book. According to the neighborhood police station’s captain John Burke, the suspects may have been armed. “And then what started out as a property crime is no longer a property crime — it’s a gun fight,” Burke said.
True, we suppose, but police sure seem willing to engage immediately when it's Louis Vuitton handbags being stolen. There is a sense among dispensary proprietors that police are simply less likely to enforce the law around cannabis dispensaries, perhaps because of a lingering hostility toward an industry they gleefully busted for so many decades, but has managed to become perfectly legal through hard work and legislation.
“We’ve all watched the video, and we were all scratching our heads,” Flore Store dispensary Terrance Alan told the Chronicle. “I certainly left the call feeling unresolved.”
The Department of Police Accountability, in case you weren't aware, is a renaming of the agency former known as the Office of Citizen Complaints, which has been around since 1982 under the aegis of the SF Police Commission. The renaming took place via a charter amendment in 2016, the agency is no longer part of the SFPD's budge, and it holds the power to conduct independent audits of the police department.
Image: BASA Collective via Yelp