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City Hall to help pay security services for SF pot shops

Security guards stand outside Berner’s on Haight in San Francisco on April 18, 2023. | Liz Lindqwister/The Standard

Cannabis store operators will now have access to a city-backed security consulting and training service, following a string of burglaries and robberies that targeted marijuana dispensaries and distribution sites across San Francisco. 

The San Francisco Office of Cannabis notified marijuana businesses about the program just a week after a group of owners gathered outside of the Stiiizy SoMa dispensary, urging city officials to respond to what they say is a spike in local cannabis industry burglaries. 

“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, at the press event. “These groups have been robbing cannabis operators all over the Bay Area.” 

Ali Jamalian speaks during a press conference at Stiiizy SoMa. | Liz Lindqwister/The Standard

READ MORE: Pot Shop Burglaries, Thefts and Losses More Than Doubled in California

Treeline Security will offer the services, which include consultation for surveillance plans, delivery and cultivation security, and ways to limit youth exposure to weed. The organization is a woman-owned company and will only provide assistance to applicants to San Francisco’s Cannabis Equity Program

“[Treeline’s] staff is comprised of retired law enforcement, active military, and event management consultants,” the Office of Cannabis said in an email to businesses Friday. 

At the Stiiizy meeting, cannabis store owners said the city had not invested enough resources into protecting and supporting dispensaries—both to prevent potential thefts and to support them in the aftermath. The cannabis operators called on the city to increase police presence and responsiveness to dispensary thefts, asking them to change no-pursuit policies.

Office of Cannabis director Nikesh Patel told The Standard last year that one of his priorities were security consultancy services, which his office now funds through grants. 

“It’s a really difficult situation, but we are offering technical assistance to applicants,” said Angela Yip, a spokesperson for the Office of the City Administrator, referring to the services Treeline Security will provide. “In previous times where there were a series of robberies at dispensaries within a few weeks, we’ve been able to facilitate communication with the police department and permit holders.”

Cannabis security experts say that the city’s decision to contract with private security companies is a good step—but potentially not enough to match the rising tide of burglaries and robberies. 

“It’s a good step forward that municipalities are allocating grant dollars for the people that matter—small cannabis operators and owners,” said Chris Eggers, founder of Cannabis Security Solutions. “When you start to see kidnappings of [dispensary] key holders, it’s a clear sign that things are not headed in the right direction.”