Protect Your Cannabis Business this Holiday Season from Robberies
Those in the cannabis industry are very aware of a concern that many outsiders do not consider. It’s one of the main reasons banking legislation is so important, and why reliable employees are not always in quick supply. This apprehension costs money and generates anxiety, and diligence is its best prevention. The issue is cannabis robberies, and what may be surprising to some is dispensaries are not the only entities at risk.
Nor is a specific region being targeted. Recently in Washington state, six people allegedly usurped weed farm security and broke into a cultivation facility, stealing roughly $250,000 worth of freshly cured cannabis flower. The five men and one woman entered by cutting through the facility’s steel walls. They then removed 130 to 150 pounds from the drying room.
“They literally cut a hole through the heavy steel siding, sheetrock and all the insulation – cut a hole in and literally crawled like rats through that hole. They come in literally the day before this stuff was ready to be trimmed and sold – and literally took everything. Do I believe they were tipped off that there was dry product in this facility? 100 percent. There’s no question. The timing was too good,” said Mark Michaelson, manager at the cultivation facility.
Home growers are not immune either. Michigan resident Aaron Westbrook reported more than one break-in and robbery of his medical crop, which is grown for personal and professional use. In the process, the thieves also destroyed a room in his lab.
“They’re holding me at gunpoint and what’s their next stage? How much more courage do they need to harm me in some way? I’m lucky to be here,” he said. “I’m covered in bruises from top to bottom from where they punched on me and stuff.”
The impact extends beyond his personal safety too. “They don’t know that they harmed my patients and stuff now because I have five people,” Westbrook said. “Some with cancer, different spinal problems that we don’t have marijuana to give them for their health now.”
Six men were indicted a few weeks ago in Oregon for impersonating DEA agents and attempting to rob a local cannabis producer, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The March incident, although not successful, saw restrained victims and damaged property. The suspects are charged with conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana, and using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm in a drug trafficking crime.
Further, in October, a California cannabis delivery driver was robbed by two men. Only money was taken but the scene involved a knife. Would-be thieves drove a car through a Missouri medical dispensary in the early morning hours. Although it is initially uncertain if any product was stolen, the damage to the building has forced its closure. The dispensary, Cookies, operates 49 dispensaries in the United States.
Some official action is in the works to reduce burglaries of cannabis stores, farms and cultivation facilities. Washington state Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti noted, “These robberies are tragic but they’re also preventable. People rob where the cash is. If we get cash out of this industry, there will be fewer robberies. These robberies are preventable, and this is a common-sense approach to making our communities safer.”
In a press release, the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) said, “The tragic events of the last week and the escalation of armed robberies over the last several months have demonstrated the urgent need for Congress to act. The lack of banking services has become a catalyst for a very real public safety crisis in Washington State. Due to their forced reliance on cash transactions, cannabis retailers have increasingly become targets for armed robbers.”
Waiting for politics to handle systemic security issues, however, is not a prudent path. For those searching how to protect your farm from thieves, safeguard staff and product, or prevent a dispensary robbery, it is best to be proactive. Some options include adding or improving sensors and alarms, boosting lighting, and upgrading video systems. Advanced safes and utilizing payment apps can reduce the visual temptation of cash. Employee training is also invaluable, as those onsite who experience confrontations do best when calm and amenable to thieves. Further, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a medical marijuana advocacy group based in Washington D.C., advises businesses to “develop and enforce policies for checking all doors and windows before opening and after closing.”
ISC has been delivering cutting-edge perimeter intrusion detection systems to the most sensitive sites including cannabis grow facilities, airports, nuclear facilities and more in the country and beyond. We specialize in crafting a perimeter security solution tailored specifically to the client’s unique needs. Don’t let the headline “Cannabis Grower Robbed” apply to you. Let’s chat.