Several US Cannabis Companies ‘Targeted’ During Nationwide Protests as Business Owners Lose Millions to Looters
Dozens of cannabis businesses across the U.S. sustained costly damages over the weekend when demonstrations over the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd turned violent and widespread vandalizing and looting in several major cities began.
In California, the Cookies, Dr. Greenthumb, Magnolia Wellness, MedMen, Mission Cannabis Club, and Nug dispensaries were among the many cannabis retail outlets that confirmed break-ins on Monday.
Cannabis stores in Chicago, Cleveland, and Boston were also hit.
Reached by THCnet, Nug vice president of operations Ted Whitney said the company’s Sacramento and San Leandro dispensaries were targeted, as well as a 200,000 sq. ft. cultivation facility in Oakland.
“What happened last night may well put us out of business,” he said, estimating that Nug sustained roughly $2 million worth of inventory loss and damages.
According to Whitney, “hundreds of pounds” of flower bound for the legal market was stolen from the Oakland facility, along with other cannabis products and merchandise.
“This was premeditated and very well organized,” he said, suggesting that bad actors from the illicit market – not protestors -- could be targeting Bay Area marijuana businesses.
AJ Prasaguet, a managing partner at Mission Cannabis Club in San Francisco, stopped short of blaming the illicit market, but admitted that the burglars who hit his store on Saturday night “had a strategy in place.”
“It was planned,” he said. “They took all of our high-end flower, vape cartridges, concentrates and extracts. They were very strategic.”
Around $300,000 worth of product was stolen from Mission Cannabis Club, Prasaguet estimates, and the store itself suffered substantial damages.
Reports of break-ins at a number of other dispensaries across California also surfaced on social media platforms over the weekend.
On Facebook, Magnolia Wellness executive director Debby Goldsberry suggested that an attack on her Oakland dispensary Saturday night was organized, saying that it performed by “armed robbers” and not “looters” or “protestors.”
“We are a small, local, mostly woman operated company, with just this one small shop, and this will hit us hard,” she wrote. “We were already barely hanging on with the virus and in survival mode. They did take nearly everything, as the police did not respond for nearly an hour, giving them time to breach most of our security features. They also just totally trashed the place.”
Elsewhere, videos of rioters breaking into Southern California MedMen and Cookies stores circulated online.
Popular YouTuber Casey Neistat filmed burglars exiting MedMen’s dispensary on Lincoln Boulevard in Venice Beach with a large red box, and a second video of the store being raided was also captured and posted on Twitter.
Another video posted on Instagram showed rioters breaking into a Los Angeles Cookies dispensary, owned by rapper Berner, whose real name is Gilbert Anthony Milam Jr.
“It’s extremely unfortunate what happened to our store tonight on Melrose, but as a human living in the world we are living in today, I cannot expect anything less until justice is served,” the rapper said in a video message. “We can rebuild our store, but you cannot bring someone back to life.”
THCnet sent multiple emails to Esther Song, the senior vice president of marketing and communications at MedMen, to confirm which of its stores were burglarized over the weekend and to determine what the company’s response would be moving forward.
As of press time, Song has not returned our requests for comment. However, a LinkedIn post penned by Joshua Shlenker, MedMen’s general merchant manager, included photographs of the destruction.A MedMen store was vandalized during Black Lives Matter protests (Credit: Joshua Shlenker via LinkedIn)
“When things really started escalating last night, I said to myself ‘We are going to lose a store tonight,’” he wrote.
Shlenker added that he was upset, “but not at protestors or looters.”
“I am angry that a group of police officers sat idly by while one of their own murdered George Floyd by standing on his neck for nearly 10 minutes,” he said.
“To those fighting for social justice, MedMen stands with you,” the statement reads. “The horrifying treatment of our Black colleagues and community is not acceptable. Systematic oppressions and inequality must end. We are committed to using our platform to help and support. We will rebuild and come back stronger in a way that makes our communities proud and advances justice and equality.”Cresco's new Sunnyside location, pictured before it was vandalized (Credit: Cresco)
Meanwhile, in Chicago, several medical and recreational dispensaries were also targeted over the weekend, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Reached by phone, Cresco Labs chief communications officer Jason Erkes confirmed that the company’s recently opened River North location was vandalized on Saturday night. However, looters who forced their way into the building were “unable to penetrate” the company’s vault or “gain access to cannabis products,” he said.
“All of the inventory in our River North, Elmwood Park and Lakeview Sunnyside stores has been temporarily removed to a state-licensed and secure facility as the safety of our staff and maintaining control of our regulated product continues to be our top priority,” he shared in a written statement. “We will work with law enforcement and state regulators to determine a safe timeline to reopen.”
Whitney told THCnet that Nug also removed product from its Oakland facility and transported to a secure location.
And in Boston, the city’s only adult-use marijuana store, Pure Oasis, which is owned by a pair of black entrepreneurs, was also robbed early Monday morning, according to the Boston Globe.
Co-owner Kobie Evans -- who recently reopened Pure Oasis and had previously only been operating for two weeks when Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker forced recreational cannabis stores to close for two months due to the coronavirus -- told the Boston Globe that he was the victim of a “targeted attack.”
“They were deliberate,” Evans told the paper, noting that looters were able to penetrate a secure back room and make off with $100,000 worth of product.
Pure Oasis is located in the Mattapan neighborhood of Boston, which is well outside of the downtown area where protestors were demonstrating.
“They purposefully came just to our shop," Evans told the Globe.
Several of the cannabis companies who spoke to THCnet said they would be beefing up their security measures tonight and in the coming days.
Both Nug and Cresco had armed guards on-site when their businesses were broken into, but they couldn’t fend off hundreds of looters without escalating the situation.
“We had two armed guards chased off our lot,” Whitney said. “We are certain they are coming back tonight, and the only way we can hope to keep the jobs of our team and staff safe is to have overwhelming force in our parking lots.”
As for the damages, Kieran J. O’Rourke, the director of underwriting for Cannasure, which works with insurance carriers to administer policies for cannabis businesses, said some owners may be able to recover a portion of the losses.
“The insurance industry exists to be there at times like this, and while nobody wants to see any of this happening, it has happened and Cannasure is committed to helping,” he told THCnet. “We stand ready to serve, to adjust claims fast and fair, and to respond to our policy holders.”
Insurance plans vary in both size and scope, O’Rourke said, but most businesses will have coverage for damage to buildings and personal property, as well inventory losses.
However, Adam Fine, a partner with Vicente Sederberg, a law firm specializing in the cannabis industry, said events such as riots and protests could be considered “Acts of God.”
“Even if they have those policies, there may be exclusions for these types of events,” he told THCnet. “It is likely that some of the businesses that have been impacted will have little recourse.”