'I fear for my business': Oakland cannabis dispensaries say they've lost $5M in recent thefts

From the tax revenue that comes from their businesses, some are hoping that money can be used to help protect their stores.

Laura Anthony Image
ByLaura Anthony KGO logo
Tuesday, November 30, 2021
Oakland pot dispensaries say they've lost $5M in recent thefts
After losing $5 million in recent thefts, owners of cannabis businesses in Oakland are asking for more protection from the city and police.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Owners of cannabis businesses in Oakland are asking for more protection.

After a week in which more than two dozen of their stores and other operations were targeted by roving bands of sometimes violent thieves, they want the city to step up, including help from Oakland police.

"We don't want to get shot. We don't want to get killed. Over cannabis? It's more dangerous now than before it was legal," said Amber Senter, of Supernova Women, an organization of women of color in the cannabis industry.

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Cannabis business owners in Oakland say they've seen enough roving bands of thieves--sometimes violent--pillaging their stores and grow operations.

"I have to admit I cried because I fear for my business in Oakland," said John Alston, owner of Oakland's James Henry. "It pains me to think about alternatives, to move my business."

Cannabis business owners say they lost more than $5 million in product in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.

Besides greater police protection, the cannabis business owners want immediate relief from the high taxes they say they pay to the city and county.

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The clothing store, 356 Prime, says this is the second time they've been hit in about a month's time.

"It's important that we look at the tax revenues from cannabis industry is going toward specific resources that support the industry," said Oakland City Councilman Loren Taylor, "whether that means having a dedicated officer, or more that really troubleshoots or problem-solves on behalf of cannabis businesses."

"I presume they'll increase security and make efforts to work more closely, in Oakland's instance, with the Oakland Police Department," said Rob Selna, an attorney who represents several Oakland cannabis business owners.

Other community leaders argue a city with a surging violent crime problem shouldn't be diverting any of its scant police resources away from the streets.

"Right now, cannabis is not the number one priority right now," said Todd Walker, community activist and youth coach in Oakland. "We need as many police on the street as we can right now, because the kids don't think anybody cares about them."

RELATED: Oakland city council members respond to police chief's criticism after violent weekend

Some cannabis business owners say without more protection, they may be forced to leave.

"Effectively the city of Oakland is pushing us out," said Kristi Palmer, owner of Kiva Confections. "Pushing cannabis businesses out of its city lines."