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SF dispensary owners blame ‘inside job’ after string of armed robberies

Ali Jamalian, head of Sunset Connect and the city’s Cannabis Oversight Committee, far left, speaks during a press conference. | Liz Lindqwister/The Standard

Power players in San Francisco’s cannabis industry have blamed a spike in burglaries on an “inside job” as marijuana losses more than doubled across the state compared to last year.

SF dispensary owners gathered Thursday morning to denounce the uptick in burglaries, thefts and robberies at dispensaries and distributors across the city. 

The owners told a press conference that the thieves must have insider knowledge of the cannabis industry due to the way the thefts are carried out. 

Ali Jamalian of Sunset Connect speaks during a press conference at Stiiizy at 518 Brannan St. in San Francisco. | Liz Lindqwister/The Standard

“We’re here today to ask the public to help us identify a group of armed, dangerous criminals terrorizing our businesses, making our staff and your community unsafe,” said Ali Jamalian, head of Sunset Connect and the city’s Cannabis Oversight Committee. “These groups have been robbing cannabis operators all over the Bay Area.” 

Now, cannabis leaders are calling on the city to increase police presence and responsiveness to dispensary thefts, warning that if the problem continues, it’s “only a matter of time before somebody gets hurt or killed.” 

READ MORE: Armed Robbers Stormed His Packed San Francisco Coffee Shop. Now He Wants Action

The store manager of Stiiizy SoMa was kidnapped in a February robbery before suspects took some $30,000 in cash from the dispensary safe, police said. 

Reese Benton, CEO of Posh Green, said her store was robbed just on March 21 in the early morning hours. Dubbed the “Nordstrom of Cannabis,” the store has not yet reopened due to the burglary. 

Reese Benton, Posh Green CEO (left), speaks during a press conference at Stiiizy. | Liz Lindqwister/The Standard

“My store was burglarized, and we were not there, thank God, but it was heartbreaking,” Benton said. “[I] always dreamed of having a business in San Francisco as a little girl. Now I have no business, and I have no protection.” 

Cannabis store owners said that the city has not invested enough resources into protecting and supporting dispensaries—both to prevent potential thefts and to support them in the aftermath. Benton says it will cost at least $40,000 to repair her building, not counting the additional profit loss from the marijuana products stolen.

An Inside Job

Dispensary owners and manufacturers allege that the string of robberies are connected, based on video footage shared among local cannabis businesses. Most of the robberies happened in the early hours of the morning when few cops are on patrol and the streets are quiet. 

“It actually appears to be the same people because you see this one huge guy, like, 300 pounds—it’s the same body that I saw and also the same tools, the same yellow crowbar,” said Karim Mayfield, a former pro boxer and owner of Authentic 415. “It appears to be the same car.”

The particular pattern of robberies has led some to believe that the robberies are carried out by a group intimately familiar with the cannabis industry and its operations. 

Members of the San Francisco cannabis small business community pose for a photo at a press conference at Stiiizy SoMa. | Liz Lindqwister/The Standard

“When we say inside job, we’re referring to an industry inside job where whoever is holding these addresses, identifying how to move through these spaces,” Jamalian said. “In our space, it was very evident that they’ve never been there, but they still knew what to look for in terms of like, ‘Where’s the cage? This is trash. This is actually the product,’ right?” 

Police have reported an uptick in burglaries at cannabis dispensaries. The Standard has asked SFPD to confirm the incidents but has not received a response.