All across the country, cannabis shops in legal states were looted as intense protests rage on throughout the United States.
Let’s start by getting this out of the way – police violence is wrong, violence against your fellow citizens is wrong, violence against police officers is wrong, racism is wrong, and looting is wrong. That said, many businesses facing unprecedented turmoil in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic, are also feeling the effects of the current protests that are sweeping the nation; cannabis businesses nonexempt. What happened at these stores, why were cannabis dispensaries targeted and looted, and what do the shop owners have to say about the current state of events?
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George Floyd and a History of Police Violence
The protest began in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in response to a 9-minute video depicting the murder of a 46-year-old black man, George Floyd, by Minneapolis police officers. Police stopped Mr. Floyd after a deli employee accused him of paying for cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. Seventeen minutes after police arrived on the scene, Mr. Floyd was unconscious and being held down by three officers, one of whom was pressing his knee against Mr. Floyd’s neck.
After his death, protests ensued. Aggressive police response (including the use of tear gas, rubber bullets, etc.) combined with some of the protesters turning violent, led to intensified reactions across the country. Most large cities and many small ones have some type of ongoing protest. Many of the protesters remained calm and peaceful as tensions continued to flare; but others began destroying property, burning law enforcement vehicles, and looting stores.
While it can be difficult to understand some of the violent, destructive actions being committed here; there is one thing that can be said with absolute certainty – a longstanding history of police misconduct exists in the United States, and that needs to change. Despite the fact that all races and most groups have been subjected to some form of mistreatment by police in the U.S., the majority of victims have been disproportionately African American. There are many speculated reasons for this including a history of racism present in mostly white police departments, and a boy’s club culture of solidarity and loyalty among officers that can lead to a lack of accountability within departments.
Dispensaries Hit – From West Coast to East
Amidst the chaos, cannabis dispensaries in numerous legal states were broken into, looted, and cleared out over the last couple of days. In California, quite a few shops in large cities were hit. Cookies, MedMen, LA Kush, and Sweet Flower (all in Los Angeles), were left completely empty with shattered windows and extensive damage. MedMen has temporarily closed all of their locations. ECO Dispensary and Magnolia Wellness in Oakland met a similar fate, along with the California Street Cannabis Dispensary in San Francisco.
In the Midwest, Rise Medical Dispensary from Cleveland and Herbal Care Center in Chicago were also ransacked. As of now, all dispensaries in Illinois’ newly established market are temporarily closed. Many other dispensaries were hit, including a few in Oregon, as protests escalated over the weekend.
One of the most publicized, however, was Boston’s Pure Oasis, the first Black-owned dispensary to open in Massachusetts. This store, owned by Kobie Evans and Kevin Hart, was hit early Monday morning in what both owners are calling a “targeted attack” that happened to coincide with the ongoing protests. Over $100,000 worth of products were stolen. Evans and Hart worked with a consultant to ramp up the store’s security policies.
Shop Owners Speak Out
Kobie Evans said at least a dozen people entered his store after someone smashed the window and opened the front door for other looters at roughly 1:43 a.m. Once in the store, the group forced their way into the back room and stole about 2,000 prerolls and 2,000 prepackaged jars of flower. The estimated value is well over $100,000, as per their current retail prices.
“They were deliberate. They purposefully came just to our shop,” Evans said. “They were able to get into a secure back room. They knew exactly where they were going and others then joined in opportunistically.”
“Kevin [Hart] and I stand in solidarity with all the people protesting the injustice in Minneapolis and elsewhere,” Evans added. “In no way do we draw any connection between what happened to us and people protesting for a good cause. This is a somewhat isolated incident where a few people exploited the situation for personal gain, because someone wanted a free pair of Jordans and some weed to go with it.”
Cookies owner and rapper, Berner, whose real name is Gilbert Anthony Milam Jr., echoed these sentiments in a video statement posted on Instagram shortly after his store was hit. He urged his followers to continue supporting the cause, despite the destruction caused to his own personal property.
“It’s extremely unfortunate what happened to our store tonight on Melrose,” Berner said. “But as a human living in the world we’re living in today, I cannot expect anything less until justice is served. We can rebuild our store, but you cannot bring someone back to life. How can I worry about a store when there is so much more going on in the world right now? So much hate, so much anger, so much pain, and a lack of justice. Please take care of your families and stay safe.”
So, just to bring it around full circle, there are a lot of wrongs here that all compounded and resulted in a highly volatile situation all-around. Continue to support the peaceful protesters, as it is our constitutional right as Americans to demonstrate peacefully – but also remember to support the GOOD law enforcement officers in your communities who really do protect and serve, and the business owners who make your lives comfortable every day with their products and services.
It’s unfortunate that all these cannabis stores (and so many other businesses) have been looted and destroyed over the last few days. The last thing we need is more chaos in this world. However, at its core, this entire movement shed light on a very important issue, one that even the owners of the looted stores continue to support.
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