Sacramento, CA

Northern California marijuana businesses experiencing sharp rise in burglaries

Robert J Hansen

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Sacramento police at the scene after a pursuit that began as a burglary in progress at a Sacramento marijuana dispensary.(Photo courtesy of Public Safety News)

Sacramento, Calif. - By Robert J Hansen

Cannabis businesses in Northern California have been experiencing a rise in burglaries and robberies for the past few weeks according to cannabis policy advisor Jacqueline McGowan.

McGowan has received reports of as many as 40 incidents occurring within three days last week.

“These are happening by professionals who have a system, getting in and out in minutes,” McGowan said.

Grow operations and dispensaries in San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento have been the primary targets of what McGowan says is an organized network of criminals.

McGown said some are using attorneys to file public information requests for cannabis security plans.

“These guys are professionals. They’re like an Ocean 11 style and level of sophistication. They have the plans of operators

security systems and everything,” McGowan said.

McGown has been told about an Oakland robbery that happened at night when nobody was there were $80,000 in the product was stolen. Another unreported attempted robbery happened in San Francisco where the potential victim shot one of the robbers according to McGowan.

“Everyone needs to be very aware of suspicious activity and to take extra precaution right now,” McGowan said.

Last week, Sacramento police arrested three people who led them on a high-speed chase after attempting to burglarize a marijuana dispensary in North Sacramento according to CBS 13.

In October, the Sacramento police department responded to 15 burglaries that occurred at cannabis businesses according to an email from public information officer Karl Chan.

“The department has seen an increase in burglaries targeting cannabis businesses in the city,” Chan said via email.

According to Chan, items that were stolen range from nothing to thousands of dollars worth of cannabis products.

“Of those 15 incidents two people have been arrested and many of the investigations remain ongoing,” Chan said. “Patrol officers are aware of the series and continue to monitor areas where there are cannabis businesses.”

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Chan said Sacramento police have met with some of the businesses to provide information regarding crime prevention and implementation of additional security measures.

San Francisco and Oakland police are working on obtaining similar information which will be disclosed once made available.

Chris Phillips owns a mom and pop style cultivation and manufacturing business for marijuana concentrations who knows many fellow operators who have been robbed recently.

“They target the distributors because they have all the cash and product on hand,” Phillips said.

Phillips’ business also recently experienced random gun fire that almost hit employees and caused damage to some equipment and his shop.

“It hit a washing machine we use for concentrates that blew up, costing thousands of dollars in product and repairs,” Phillips said.

Phillips said many operators can’t afford to pay the kind of security necessary to protect from these burglaries.

“A five man team throughout the day for around the clock security cost a minimum $75,000 a month and most guys can't pick up an expense like that without being a corporate backed company,” Phillips said.

Another operator in Sacramento said it’s been rough in Sacramento on Facebook.

“I know a few of our neighbors got hit also. Think it’s way more out of control than people realize. Lots of companies keep it private,” he said.

Phillips said that the public disclosure of operators' addresses bears a lot of the blame for these burglaries.

“Once the information is out there on the internet then it’s out there, that’s it,” Phillips said. “Anyone could save the information even if it is taken down.”

According to Phillips, another major security risk is the amount of cash that distributors and operators have to handle due to federal law that doesn’t recognize cannabis as a legal industry.

This has made targets for robberies that have been happening since California legalized recreational marijuana and became regulated in 2017.

“We report our taxes every couple weeks. I’ve heard of another person who needed five trucks to pay his taxes. It’s a lot of cash,” Phillips said.

Currently, the Safe Banking Act of 2021, a federal bill that would prohibit a federal banking regulator from penalizing a depository institution for providing banking services to a legitimate cannabis-related business is working its way through Congress.

The bill has been sent to the Senate and referred to the Committee of Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

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Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Focused on holding elected officials, police and the courts accountable to the people throughout the greater Sacramento area.

Sacramento, CA
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