Colorado cannabis regulators issued a bulletin on Monday to draw attention to the rise in burglaries against the state’s licensed cannabis businesses.
The Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) has “observed an increase in the frequency of reported incidents of burglaries, impacting the Colorado Regulated Marijuana industry,” the bulletin, the first of its kind issued by the state’s cannabis regulators, noted.
Specifically, cannabis retail is the most often targeted license-type, representing 64% of the crimes reported to the MED through 2021. This year, burglaries against cannabis shops have accounted for 32 out of 33 burglaries.
“These burglaries have most often involved persons unlawfully entering a Regulated Marijuana Business after closing with the intent to steal property,” the bulletin noted. “This Bulletin is intended to create a heightened awareness of potential vulnerabilities and promote increased security measures.”
Regulators have found in an analysis that, between 2019 and 2021, these crimes cost $2.5 million in cash and cannabis product losses.
The bulletin highlighted that, most often, someone uses a crowbar to pry open the front door or window to gain entry to a cannabis shop. Though, the second “most frequently used instrument is a vehicle. Vehicles have been used to breach security fences and ram doors,” the bulletin noted. Most of the “successful” burglaries occurred between midnight and 4 a.m. and some burglars were “visibly armed.”
Regulators noted that “security standards above the minimum requirements had fewer successful entries.” What does that mean? Securing cash and cannabis products in safes at night, locking any refrigerators or freezers that store cannabis products, implementing reinforced and multi pronged locks and guard plates for doors. The bulletin highlighted that some Colorado jurisdictions require such extra security measures, and that in areas that have these rules, “attempted burglaries are much less successful.”
Lawmakers have increasingly linked instances of violence at cannabis businesses to the industry’s banking hurdles. This month, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, and Colorado Treasurer Dave Young sent a letter to Congressional leadership asking them to consider the importance of cannabis banking.
“The lack of safe banking and financial services for the cannabis industry in the State of Colorado has become a dire public safety issue for highly regulated cannabis businesses operating in compliance with state law,” the letter read, adding that the cash-heavy nature of the cannabis industry “fuels these crimes” by adding to the “perception” that cannabis business owners are sitting on large piles of cash.
“Without access to cashless payment options, the target will remain on the backs of highly regulated cannabis businesses operating in compliance with state law, and with that comes the potential for more violence and loss of life,” the letter continued.
These issues and sentiments aren’t limited to Colorado. Over in Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, and state Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti sent a similar letter to Congress in May.
The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) also hosted a roundtable in March during which they discussed solutions at the state and federal levels. Speakers included Pellicciotti; Sen. Karen Keiser; Michael Correia, director of government affairs for the National Cannabis Industry Association; and LCB’s Enforcement and Education Division Director Chandra Brady. LCB Chair David Postman moderated the meeting and roundtable.
Postman said that at least 70 robberies had been reported back in March, which led to at least three deaths.
“Business owners and their employees are fearful that they could be next,” Postman said.
The SAFE Banking Act has passed out of the U.S. House of Representatives multiple times, but has not cleared the Senate. The scope of the Act is currently under debate among lawmakers and advocates, as Cannabis Wire has reported, with some arguing that the bar for passage is high as it is, and others arguing that it doesn’t do enough.
There are no national standards for security or workplace safety training.