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Cannabis shops across the San Francisco Bay Area have been thrown into dire straits as gangs of thieves broke into more than 15 shops throughout November during the series of 'smash-and-grab' robberies plaguing California
Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong told reporters that 'hundreds' of vehicles targeted marijuana stores in Oakland last month, firing 175 shots and stealing about $5 million worth of products.
Alphonso 'Tucky' Blunt, owner of Blunts and Moore, told MJBizDaily that his store lost about $25,000 during a November 22 raid, where more than a dozen burglars ransacked the store.
'I know 25 or so businesses that got hit … and out of all those, the percentage I know that told me that they may not be able to reopen is about 50 percent. That's scary, Blunt said.
'I was safer, and had more money, (selling) on the street, illegally.'
A gang of thieves broke into Blunts and Moore on November 22, making off with about $25,000 worth of product as the ransacked the store
Alphonso 'Tucky' Blunt, owner of the Blunts and Moore cannabis shop, said robberies in San Francisco have gotten so bad that he was safer selling drugs on the streets
It was one of more than 15 robberies reported by the Oakland Police Department, but Blunt said he knows about 25 shops that were hit last month
Blunt and other marijuana shop owners said that their businesses are targeted because thieves believe they have a lot of cash on hand, which they said is not the case.
Blunt estimated that his shop has been vandalized or robbed at least 10 times since opening in 2018.
Amber Senter, the co-founder of Supernova Women - an Oakland-based nonprofit that helps women of color in the cannabis business - said robberies can be a death knell for dispensaries because insurance coverage is hard for them to get.
'A lot of these folks are not open and won't be open for a while, because they can't bounce back from these things,' Senter said during a November 29 news conference about the Oakland robberies.
'They don't have the runway and the extra capital and the war chest of cash to come back from something like this.'
Senter's own business EquityWorks! Incubator was also robbed, which houses several small social equity marihuana companies.
Along with Blunt and Senter's businesses, some of the other cannabis shops hit in the Bay Area include: Bay Area Safe Alternatives, Blum Dispensary, Eco Cannabis, Purple Heart Patient Center, Community Gardens, Oakland Embarc Martinez, Phytologie Oakland, and Magnolia Oakland.
A thief can be seen running away with a bad full of cannabis products from Bay Area Safe Alternatives in late November
The Eco Cannabis shop was also ransacked on November 22, with thieves prying open the doors to the dispensary
After the raid on Eco Cannabis, there was a shootout at the Blum Dispensary in San Leandro
Footage of the Bay Area Save Alternative robbery on November 16 shows a pair of robbers stuffing bags full of cannabis before running out the shop at 4.30 am.
'I was angry when I saw the footage,' Anisa Alazraie, whose father owns the dispensary, told NBC. She said police had arrived in the middle of the robbery but failed to act quickly enough to stop the robbers.
Two days later, the Embarc Martinez dispensary was also looted by three armed men wearing ski-masks. A store employee told police the suspects stole a large amount of cannabis and some of his personal belongings before fleeing in a black Honda sedan.
The following week, the Eco Cannabis store, in Oakland, was targeted by thieves who pried the metal security doors open and raided the story. That same night, armed thieves robbed the Blum Dispensary in nearby San Leandro.
Police said multiple vehicles pulled up on the dispensary and started shooting, damaging the store.
Raeven Duckett-Robinson, owner of Community Gardens in Oakland, echoed the concerns about the rampant burglaries after his shop was also robbed last month. He told MJBizDaily that most cannabis shop owners 'living and working hand to mouth' and could not wait for an insurance claim to help them.
'Even if you do get the insurance money, it's not going to be next week,' Duckett-Robinson said.
Blunt told KRON4 that Oakland officers advised him to hire armed guards to shoot potential looters, something Armstrong denied during a news conference this week.
Blunt said that his shop has been vandalized or robbed at least 10 times since opening in 2018
Following the string of robberies, many owners said they might not be able to reopen
This map shows the locations of some of the major smash-and-grab robberies that took place in California between November 19 and December 2. The majority of robberies conducted by gangs of thieves have taken place in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles