Do you operate a licensed cannabis business in Oakland? Eager to beef up your security? The city wants to give you some money.
Oakland has $332,000 in state funds that it’s preparing to hand out to the owners of cannabis businesses. The grant funding comes from the Board of State and Community Corrections, the same agency that declined to give Oakland millions in funding to combat retail theft after the city botched a separate grant application last month.
The maximum amount a business can get from the city hasn’t been determined yet, but staff anticipate individual applicants could receive approximately $15,000. Applications are due by 5 p.m. on Oct. 17 and can be filled out here.
Burglaries and robberies of cannabis businesses are nothing new, but people familiar with the industry say security issues worsened at the outset of the pandemic. OPD did not immediately provide data about crimes targeting cannabis businesses, but there have been several high-profile burglaries in Oakland this year. In June, thieves tried to break into three dispensaries and cannabis stores in West Oakland, including one that they broke into using a forklift. Many cannabis shops are reliant on cash because of federal banking restrictions, which makes them tempting targets.
“All the cannabis operators I know are being very quiet and clandestine,” said Javier Armas, a member of Oakland’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which helps regulate cannabis policies in the city. “It’s horrible even to operate right now in Oakland.”
Gregory Minor, deputy director of the Economic and Workforce Development Department, said on-site security for cannabis businesses can be very expensive. The city has tried to keep this grant application simple and restricted it to the following types of businesses: brick and mortar dispensaries, shared-used manufacturing facilities, and companies that operate a “campus” style property that house at least three businesses.
According to Minor, the city has received over 20 applications so far.
“The challenge with this and any program… is the limited amount of funding compared to the need,” Minor said. “But hopefully between the different grants we’ve been able to distribute, this at least helps our cannabis businesses to cover some of the costs and deter some of the burglaries.”
Minor said the grant will provide over $300,000 each year through 2028.
Chaney Turner, who also sits on the commission, said the grant is helpful but that businesses need more resources. She noted that paying for a single security guard can run up a bill of tens of thousands of dollars each year. Replacing or fortifying doors or windows can also be extremely expensive.
“Although this grant can help some people it still isn’t enough,” Turner said. “It’s not just the city but also the state that has to do more to make sure there is enough funding for people to secure their spaces as they choose.”