Editor's Note: This article was updated with additional information at 11:15 a.m. June 3.
Rioters and looters targeted cannabis businesses in the past few days, breaking in dispensaries and stealing cannabis products and cash from mostly small businesses amid protests denouncing the extrajudicial killing of George Floyd.
Dozens of cannabis operations across the country were targeted by looters and unaffiliated armed individuals, who broke windows, display cases and entered secured areas.
California Dispensaries Targeted
Leafly reports at least 43 dispensaries on the West Coast were hit, including Medmen, Cookies, and Oakland’s Magnolia Wellness, owned by long-time cannabis advocate Debby Goldsberry (who also sits on the Cannabis Dispensary magazine Editorial Advisory Board).
Goldsberry told Cannabis Dispensary that Magnolia was “barely hanging on” due to the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and declining sales when armed individuals broke into Magnolia twice, once at 3 a.m. Sunday and again later that evening at about 11. She said on Tuesday that two other small groups tried to break in again Monday night, but she doesn’t believe they are affiliated with the earlier robberies.
Magnolia Wellness was robbed over the weekend in an incident Executive Director Debby Goldsberry says was not affiliated with protests or random looting, but that it was a targeted, planned break-in. Credit: Courtesy of Debby Goldsberry
“We don’t think it’s safe to open until it’s clear that the Oakland Police Department can respond to armed robberies,” Goldsberry said, adding that it took hours for police to respond to the second break-in over the weekend. The broken windows will remain boarded up for now.
She said that armed robbers, who she believes were not affiliated with protests or looting that occurred during some demonstrations, took everything, including cannabis products, computers, the store’s point-of-sale system, employee paychecks and security system equipment. She has not calculated the extent of the damage yet, but her primary concern is not necessarily the destruction the store experienced.
Magnolia Wellness Executive Director Debby Goldsberry says everything was taken during a series of two robberies over the weekend. Credit: Courtesy of Debby Goldsberry
“For us there’s nothing more important than ending this societal injustice and making sure that the cannabis industry, of all things, is fair for all and accessible for everybody,” Goldsberry says. “The reason people rob in gangs like that is the same reasons that we’re protesting. The reasons are the same, the underlying racism and the lack of opportunities, the inability to get ahead and a system that is absolutely set up against people of color.
"While we don’t like being targeted like this, we get it. Our sympathies lie with the protesters and people of color who have been way too long targeted by law enforcement."
She says she is not angry at the individuals who destroyed her business. In an impassioned Facebook post about the incidents Sunday, she wrote: “Our shop can be rebuilt, but the black lives taken by the police, again and again, are gone forever. Simply put, the police are murdering people right before our eyes, and the anger has boiled over. We saw it on camera, watching these men rampage through our space.”
A timeline for reopening will depend on several factors and when she can replace products and equipment, but Goldsberry hopes it will be within a week to three weeks. Magnolia is an equity incubator, meaning that the company provides support and free rent to Chiefing, a cannabis manufacturing equity company within the building. Goldsberry also wants to support owner Ron Leggett, who was just about to open and start supplying Magnolia, with his reopening. She has set up a GoFundMe account that has already raised $800.
She also hopes the community will respond and help Magnolia, too, according to the post she wrote on Facebook:
“We will need help rebuilding, make no mistake about it. We are not owned by a big company, we have no nest egg, and we are still waiting to find out if our insurance will pay for any losses. We will likely have to lean heavily on this incredible community to help. We've already had so many inspirational calls and messages, and we thank you all. We will be back, and better than ever, make no mistake about it. It may take a week or two to get the shop rebuilt, and, then we will have to wait until the protests are calmed down, as it's not safe to open right now."
“They were deliberate. They purposefully came just to our shop. They were able to get into a secure back room. They knew exactly where they were going.”
- Pure Oasis co-owner Kobie Evans
In response to the break-in at Cookies' Melrose store in Los Angeles, co-founder and CEO Berner posted a video statement on his Instagram page, asking, "How can I worry about a store when there's so much more going on in the world right now, so much hate, so much anger, so much pain and a lack of justice?" The company also shared this prepared statement with Cannabis Dispensary from Berner, adding that the store was lucky to be able to reopen the next day, unlike other dispensaries in the area:
"The world is in pain. Without justice, how can I expect anything else right now? A statement needed to be made. We were able to rebuild and open our store back up, but that man’s life is gone. We are fed up with the justice system and pray all of the officers involved in George Floyd’s murder face criminal charges. We will be here to continue to spread love through this plant and bringing positive vibes to the city of Los Angeles."
Harborside’s Oakland and San Leandro locations also were broken into.
Interim CEO Peter Bilodeau offered this prepared statement to Cannabis Dispensary: “Our hearts and deepest sympathies go out to the families of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. We are saddened by the senseless deaths and by the deep pain and division we are seeing across the country. Harborside was founded as a collective that prioritizes the physical and mental health of individuals in our communities. We must stand together against racism in all its forms. The time has come, and it is a long time coming, we need to stand and be the change we want to see. We cannot be a healthy society while hatred and violence are present. We believe in peace over war and love over hate, and we vow to stay true to our longstanding dedication to social equity. We continue to contribute to community partners that advance social equity efforts like the Last Prisoner Project and are currently exploring additional opportunities to give back to our communities.
“Over the weekend, our Harborside Oakland and San Leandro stores were impacted. Windows were broken and merchandise was stolen, but thankfully, no one was injured. Upon reviewing the incidents we have reason to believe this destruction was part of a series of organized robberies across the Bay Area. These incidents were not caused by protesters.
"We have taken additional safety precautions for our employees and our customers including suspending our delivery and curbside pickup services across all locations. We are working as quickly as possible to deliver solutions to our customers while prioritizing everyone’s safety. We stand in solidarity with our cannabis community.”
Massachusetts Retailers Experience Another Set Back
Minority-owned businesses were also targeted across the country. ECO Cannabis and Blunts+Moore, in Oakland, were looted, according to Leafly. Pure Oasis in Boston, Mass., the city’s first adult-use dispensary, was also targeted by what co-owners say was a coordinated robbery.
Pure Oasis co-owners Kevin Hart and Kobie Evans told the Boston Globe that at least a dozen individuals entered the store, which had closed only two weeks after opening due to the state’s COVID-19 restrictions and had been reopened for only a week since those restrictions were lifted before being robbed. Individuals stole about 2,000 pre-rolled joints and 2,000 pre-packaged containers in a robbery totaling $100,000.
“They were deliberate. They purposefully came just to our shop," Evans told the Globe. “They were able to get into a secure back room. They knew exactly where they were going.”
Chicago Dispensaries Close
In the Midwest, Chicago’s Mission South Shore store had its glass smashed by looters armed with baseball bats and crowbars who broke in minutes after staff left, Kris Krane, president and co-founder of parent company 4Front Ventures, told Cannabis Dispensary. He said security footage captured the scene before the group of 30 or 40 people broke in, and that it appeared to be a planned attack, as the looters arrived in cars that pulled up in front of the store at the same time.
"We had glass that was not supposed to be able to be broken that was. It took a quite a while to get in ... but with 40 people with weapons, there is only so much you can do," Krane says, adding that staff, customers and patients were all able to leave safely. "If this was a situation where there wasn’t looting going on around the city and there wasn’t mass protests going on around the city, this wouldn’t have happened. They wouldn’t have been able to get through. The police were understandably preoccupied."
Krane said he does not know when they will be able to reopen, and that it could take anywhere from two weeks to two months depending on how long it takes to replace broken doors, windows, locks and to work out the insurance details. But luckily, he says, the bones and structure of the business are sound. Krane says he doesn't want this incident and the many others across the country to detract from the important message of the protests.
"The people that looted the store in Chicago, these are not the protesters. This was a planned attack. ...They were clearly targeting specific businesses, and we were on that list," Krane says. "These are people that are taking advantage of a generally chaotic situation knowing law enforcement is preoccupied with protests, and are being sort of opportunists and engaging in this type of violence and destruction. But this has nothing to do with the protesters or their goals."
Krane says Mission dispensaries in other markets have not been targeted and the Chicago store will recover.
"I worry that incidents like these detract from the goals of the protests and the very important goals of fighting for social justice and police accountability and racial equality," Krane says. "I don’t want to be seen as a victim in this. We can rebuild. Nobody was hurt. … Everything else can be replaced. I don’t want the focus to be on the destruction and the violence at the expense of what is a really important movement here."
According to a report from the Chicago Tribune, every dispensary across the city has since closed indefinitely to prevent more looting or to clean the debris from break-ins. These closures could negatively affect medical patients whose supplies are running low.
Jushi Holdings, a multi-state operator, also announced in a press release that it will be temporarily closing its BEYOND / HELLO Center City and Northern Liberties store locations in Philadelphia amid ongoing demonstrations and riots.
In a statement, Jushi Holdings chairman and CEO Jim Caccioppo said, “We fully support an individual’s right to freedom of speech and the touching peaceful demonstrations that we have seen around the country. We are heartbroken by the murder of George Floyd and the pain it is causing communities across the country that we not only work in, but live and love.
Unfortunately, certain opportunistic bad actors have at times manifested unacceptable behaviors. This past weekend, our Center City and Northern Liberties locations in Philadelphia were broken into, making it impossible for us to safely operate. In addition to these two temporary store closures, we have limited our hours at certain locations in Pennsylvania and Illinois…
As committed members of the cannabis movement, we will also continue to fight for equality and work to overturn racially biased laws that ruin lives and unequally target disenfranchised communities and people of color,” Caccioppo said.
This story is developing. Please check back for updates and more comments from businesses.