A recent spate of Bay Area cannabis-targeted robberies has aroused the ire of local business leaders and activists. Activist groups like Supernova Women are urging officials to provide financial relief in the wake of more than 25 licensed cannabis businesses being robbed or burglarized.
The group calls for a repeal of California’s cannabis cultivation tax and a substantial reduction in the marijuana excise tax. All types of small and minority-owned cannabis businesses – cultivation, manufacturing, distribution and retail, delivery, and storefront – hurt by the robberies are facing up to $5 million in losses.
“Cannabis equity businesses, in particular, need more money and resources. Small businesses and small farmers need help,” said Amber Senter, executive director of Supernova Women. “Piling on and increasing taxes—and now with the threat of robberies and violence—is proving to be unbearable for cannabis operators. When we’re faced with targeted attacks, the effects are magnified. Our communities do not have the runway for robberies and tragedies of this time.”
Across the bay, San Francisco activists have raised harsh criticisms against the police response to the marijuana burglaries. Surveillance video obtained by The San Francisco Chronicle showed local police, who had responded to a 911 call about a dispensary burglary, observing and not intervening as suspects got away.
“Yet when organized crime organizations target at our facilities, we get little to no response and zero compassion from local law enforcement and city officials,” Senter said. “We’re not going to hire people with AK-47s and put them on the roof. That’s not our job. That’s not why we started to sell weed. We didn’t decide to get into cannabis to kill people. We’re here to provide medicine and improve people’s lives.”
The crime spree has also served to underscore the feeble attempts at equity for area marijuana businesses in general. In Oakland, cannabis companies pay a 6 percent tax rate, but non-cannabis companies pay 0.12 percent. Cannabis companies are paying 600% more taxes than any other area company.
“These operators deserve the right to a safe work environment and local support in a city where we pay an exorbitant amount of taxes,” said Senter. Monday’s event ended with Senter sending a clear message to city and state officials: “Listen to us. This is our cry for help. Help us.”