With rioting ongoing in the United States following the killing of the black man George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, looters struck dozens of cannabis shops. In the United States, these go by the name of “cannabis dispensaries” in the same way that a toilet is a “bathroom” and a cockroach is just a “roach.” Professional criminals were responsible in some incidents.
Why cannabis shops make good targets
Even in states where cannabis is legal, banks shy away from cannabusinesses due to federal disapproval. As a result, these hold much cash in addition to a readily sellable product. Licensed cannabis shops will have security cameras and safes. Professional thieves, alas, will go undeterred: in San Francisco, the robbers brought safe-cracking equipment.
Police will be otherwise engaged
With riots in progress, police will have other things on their minds. Evidence of this was provided by the break-in to the Magnolia Wellness Dispensary in Oakland, California, on Saturday 30 May: it took an hour for police to show up. When its owner, Debby Goldsberry, posted to Facebook, she made clear that the break-in was the work of armed robbers, “not protesters, please be clear about that”. Her venture faces an uncertain future, being “a mom-and-pop shop” with “no nest-egg … Canadian backers or Big Cannabis money.” At least the criminals in this case were dense, with security cameras catching some of their faces and the licence plates of their cars. They also danced. She added that while her shop could be rebuilt, “the black lives taken by the police, again and again, are gone forever.” The connection to George Floyd is that “The same conditions that led to the killing of George Floyd led to this.”
This is the work of locals
Friday saw a break-in to ECO Cannabis on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, California. Kevin Ahaesy, the owner, spoke of how he lost “a lot.” As for who did the deed, he remarked, “From everything we could tell, it was local people.”
It was certainly not professional criminals who broke in to south Chicago’s Missions South Shore on Sunday. Kris Krane, the owner, watched security camera footage of 30 or 40 people bearing crowbars and baseball bats who initially broke the front door and then “ransacked” the establishment: “Nothing was going to hold that many people back.” After the events of the weekend, all Chicago’s cannabis shops have closed to prevent or clean up break-ins. This might cause problems for those using cannabis for medical purposes.
The robbers are clearly not racially “woke”: they hit Massachusetts’ first black-owned cannabis shop on Monday morning. According to co-owner Kobie Evans, at least a dozen people entered after someone broke a window and opened the front door at 01:43. They made off with around 2,000 pre-rolled joints and 2,000 containers of marijuana. Sold legally, these would fetch more than $100,000.
One cannabis shop owner, the well-known rapper Berner, whose real name is Gilbert Anthony Milam Jr, was philosophical: “How can I worry about a store when there is so much more going on in the world right now? So much hate, so much anger, so much pain and a lack of justice.” His fellow rapper and cannabis shop owner B-Real commented, “Rioting, looting, and burning down business … isn’t going to make the change needed. It will only set us back.” He asked that people “protest peacefully and remove the instigators that aren’t there in the name of George Floyd.”
One cannabis shop owner told Leafly, the world’s largest pro-cannabis website, “We’re sitting fucking ducks. I think it’s going to happen every night.”
Header image credit: 1Life CBD