With a spike in robberies hitting marijuana businesses across the U.S., a leading cannabis advocacy group is providing the industry with resources on how to prevent and respond to theft.
Americans for Safe Access (ASA) developed its Robbery Preparedness Guide in response to growing reports of targeted crime at marijuana retailers. In San Francisco alone, there are reports of more than 25 break-ins and millions of dollars of damage and stolen property in the past two months.
“We know this is an issue nation-wide, and we want to do our part to help ensure that all dispensaries remain secure, their staff and patients feel SAFE, and that products continue to be available to patients,” ASA said.
The group’s free guide is meant to “aid businesses in developing plans to stay safe during robberies and adopt policies to help prevent robberies and burglaries.”
“No one wants to think about robberies and burglaries, but they are a reality for all businesses, particularly retail operators. Even if your staff or fellow employees are not talking about robberies, they are thinking about them,” the guide says. “Most robberies are premeditated and depend on an element of surprise and confrontation. This means that robbers are looking for weaknesses in a business’ security that would make the operation a tempting target.”
ASA recognized that marijuana businesses are already more vulnerable to being targets of crime because many operate on a largely cash-only basis because they lack access to banking and other financial services.
The rise in cannabis robberies has also been cited by lawmakers who’ve been pushing for the enactment of legislation to protect banks that work with state-legal cannabis businesses. They’ve argued that the public safety risks created by the current system underscores the urgent need to pass the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act. Yet despite passing the House in some form five times now, the reform has been blocked in the Senate under Republican and Democratic control, albeit for different reasons.
“It is common knowledge that cannabis businesses have issues with traditional banks, which already makes them targets, but robbers also look for easy getaway potential, employees working alone, and businesses that are isolated,” ASA’s guide says. “Robberies happen quickly, so it is important that all staff know what is expected from them during and after an event.”
Tips included in the guide are broken down into five categories: preparation, during a robbery, after a robbery, in case of burglary and other considerations on providing sufficient security.
It encourages businesses to take steps like implementing clear policies on locking up shop, managing and storing inventory, having visible security cameras, installing alarm systems, frequently changing the time of day that cash is transferred from the store, cooperating with robbers to get them to leave as soon as possible and contacting law enforcement after a theft.
In response to the robbery surge, members of the marijuana business community in Oakland, California last month called on state and local officials to provide “tax amnesty.” The organization Supernova Women, which organized the event, said the relief would help sustain small and minority-owned firms that have faced up to $5 million in losses following the robberies.
ASA also recently distributed materials to thousands of California hospitals on how to implement a new law requiring them to permit certain patients to use cannabis at their facilities.
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