Sometimes it pays to abide by the rules, however strict.
Just ask Elemental Wellness CEO Joe LoMonaco and Silicon Valley Cannabis Alliance Sean Kali-Rai, who represents seven marijuana dispensaries in San Jose.
While weed businesses in some parts of the country have been hard hit by looting and vandalizing reportedly on the rise amid protests against George Floyd’s killing, only two of San Jose’s 16 dispensaries were burglarized—with minimal losses—since the demonstrations against police brutality started.
According to Kali-Rai, that’s because of the city’s strict regulations, which require tight security at any weed business. “San Jose has not seen the widespread cannabis burglarization and looting compared to others part of the country,” he said. “At least 30 dispensaries in California have been burglarized or looted.”
News reports painted the situation as particularly dire in Chicago, where every dispensary was closed Monday—some indefinitely—to prevent further damage or start the cleanup process from last weekend’s looting and vandalizing.
Locally, sometime just after midnight, a group of 20 people reportedly broke into the Elemental Wellness facility in North San Jose. However, LoMonaco said the suspects were in the shop for literally “five to seven seconds” before scurrying away after noticing a security officer on the premises.
Elemental Wellness has what’s known as a micro-business license, which requires it to have a security officer on the premises at all times. LoMonaco said the group of 20 would-be thieves didn’t realize there was an armed security guard in the building until they busted one of the doors and broke into the building.
“As they started to funnel in, all of a sudden one kid turns around and yells, ‘Oh my God, there is security,’” LoMonaco said. “And, literally, 20 of these people turn around and went back out. We basically had a broken door for damages. We were fortunate. If we hadn’t had security or the sound of the alarm, we could’ve had big problems.”
Harborside was the only other San Jose dispensary that got broken into, but the only damage involved a broken refrigerator and two glass doors.
“[The suspects] tried to get access into other parts of the store, but they couldn’t get in,” Harborside manager Pedro Fonseca said. “We were fortunate. All in all, it could’ve been a lot worse because we’ve had something happen every night last weekend.”
After reviewing the security footage, Fonseca said 10 scofflaws were inside the Harborside facility for six minutes, starting at 12:42am Tuesday. Harborside managers now plan to have security guards on duty at all times, indefinitely.
Dispensaries in San Jose are subject to some of the nation’s strictest rules, making it one of the most expensive places for them to do business. While that may seem like a drawback to many weed entrepreneurs, Kali-Rai sees it another way.
“The analogy I kind of make is the 100-year flood,” he said. “Take, for example, building codes that require properties to be built a certain way. You may think at the time the requirements are an overreach or unnecessary cost, but when you have that 100-year flood, you are really happy you were forced to do this regulation. It’s a real saving grace in this type of situation. When you have this pandemic followed by social unrest, that is the reason you have these really rigid and strong enforcement tools.”