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Cannabis Retailers In Oakland Face Threats of Violent Theft

July 30, 2020

Oakland cannabis businesses are facing an increase in violent theft, with at least 40 break-ins since May 31. The most recent attack occurred July 24, where one employee was killed and another wounded near I-880 northwest of the Oakland Coliseum. 

With some businesses facing up to a million dollars in loss of product, concerns over employee safety and financial recovery are at an all-time high. Ersie Joyner, a former police captain now working as a security consultant for cannabis-related businesses in Oakland, says that a group of approximately a dozen looters hit several cannabis businesses over a five-day period. 

Some business owners like Debby Goldsberry, owner of Magnolia Wellness Collective in Oakland, are closed until further notice. She reported that the looters completely wiped out her stock. 

Recent Lootings Add To Already Challenging Business Climate 

With cannabis businesses forced to keep large amounts of cash on hand due to federal laws preventing them from using banks, the risk of a highly damaging break-in is already amplified. Not only can looters take the entirety of inventory, but they can also wipe out companies’ entire reserves of cash. 

Additionally, Oakland cannabis dispensaries are competing with a surge in black market dispensaries which can charge less and avoid taxes. In 2019, a study by New Frontier Data reported two-thirds of the $11 billion dollars worth of marijuana sold in California was on the black market. 

The Oakland Community Struggles To Plan Prevention 

Local Oakland cannabis business owners are hoping to work with the city for thorough investigation of the crimes and a coordinated strategy on cannabis related crime, but not much headway has been made. Employees and owners are growing increasingly frustrated with the police’s inability to respond, amplified by the Friday night murder. 

As of this date, the Oakland Police have no coordinated strategy in place to report cannabis-related crimes, making them difficult to track. John Romero, the officer assigned to the cannabis unit of OPD, says he hopes to implement such a system soon. 

Oakland Police also noted that there were 200 calls for looting over the several days following the George Floyd protests when the dispensaries were hit, and that many victims were not related to cannabis companies.