Last summer, during the protests following George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer, legal cannabis businesses in San Francisco and Oakland, California were repeatedly burglarized by what victims as well as authorities described as organized break-in crews.
Though police did make some arrests, a year and a half later, instead of deterred, thieves appear emboldened. In the past two weeks, at least 25 cannabis businesses—including retail storefronts as well as cultivation and distribution centers— in Oakland alone have been burglarized, with damages in excess of $5 million.
And according to outraged and bereft cannabis business owners, police are encouraging this crime wave by not responding to reports of break-ins—arriving hours later only to ask owners to file a police report, if they respond at all—or, in at least one recorded instance, appearing to stand by and watch as unarmed thieves robbed a legal marijuana store blind.
“Cannabis business are being attacked,” as Amber Senter, a leading Oakland cannabis entrepreneur and social-equity advocate, said in an interview. One of Senter’s businesses was also burglarized, she said.
And police “are letting it happen,” she added.
Senter led calls Monday for tax relief and increased police presence for legal marijuana businesses, who pay the highest city and state taxes of any merchants in the city. In addition to steep state sales and excise taxes, a local tax levied on Oakland’s several hundred marijuana businesses deposits an extra $14 million annually in city coffers, according to budget figures.
With an investment like that, marijuana businesses expect a return in the way of city services such as police protection. They have a point—providing security is one of the most basic functions of a state.
Published: November 30, 2021
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News