When criminals attempted to rob me personally, my co-worker chose to fight back and I backed him up – they fled with nothing and left behind a hat, a gold necklace, and a gun. Real gun, fake bullets. Fighting back felt good but had the gun contained real bullets we could have been shot and killed.
A robbery – especially an armed robbery – can terrorize staff members and destroy a business. I personally have been robbed about a dozen times in the course of my cannabis retail activism – half the time by police, the other half by regular criminals. Each time it’s been a fight for survival – the survival of the organization that was robbed and the individuals on staff at the time.
I’m president of the Stressed And Depressed Association – a dispensary in Vancouver. We have been operating since 2015. We focus on educating our clients and the public about cannabis – it’s proper use, it’s applicability as a preventive medicine for the healthy to stay healthy with, and it’s potential to replace many pharmaceutical synthetic medicines due to its effectiveness, it’s relative safety and its affordability.
We have assembled this evidence on our website.
Our dispensary has been robbed three times. The first time was a “smash and grab” – someone stole a mini-van and rammed it through the front of our store. The police caught the robbers the same day and returned our illegal cannabis products back to us – no questions asked. We have since put in massive planters to prevent future such assaults.
The second robbery was with two masked robbers wielding a knife and a crowbar – we put a buzzer on the door to prevent any further masked people from coming in.
The third robbery was at gunpoint – two people hiding guns in their clothes came in and pulled the guns out. They let two more of their friends in with more guns. Our video surveillance cameras got great photos of all of them, and they were subsequently rounded up by the police. We have since put in a silent alarm and reduced the amount of stock on site. So far, so good.
Having extra security measures is not unique to cannabis – cigarette stores, liquor stores, drug stores, jewelry stores and any other places that sell “easy to resell” items must have such features. We learned that the hard way.
What the police need to do at this point is to decide what is more important to them: public safety, or the strict enforcement of outdated laws that have zero public safety benefits – laws that were designed to persecute people for their intelligent preference to cannabis over stronger drugs such as caffeine.
The police in Toronto have been raiding dispensaries in general and persecuting those dispensaries that dared to ask for assistance – this must end immediately. It’s unnecessarily putting people’s lives at risk to discourage full dispensary-police cooperation in preventing robberies and arresting thieves – sometimes armed and violent thieves.
The police in Vancouver have not – for the most part – been raiding dispensaries and have been quite respectful when asked for assistance with robberies, but they still refuse – for the most part – to return stolen property until it’s fully legalized and even then they can’t promise anything. This interferes with the dispensary’s ability to afford security upgrades and encourages vigilanteism – people will sooner or later go after robbers on their own if they know the police won’t return their property.
What we do know is – in spite of cannabis use rates experiencing a five-fold increase in western countries between 1960 and today – there has been no increase in psychosis or decrease in I.Q.s in the general population. Cannabis is not making people stupid or crazy. In fact, the cannabis abuse rates are similar to the caffeine abuse rates – next to nothing, unworthy of draconian laws, no hysteria required. The police should be the first ones to admit this, and set an example for the rest of society in treating the cannabis community with the respect and dignity we deserve.
Cannabis activists are united in fighting over-regulation and monopoly. We want equal rights with the sellers of coffee beans, herbal medicines and other soft drugs. We won’t stop fighting until we get these rights. Safety will be enhanced and suffering will be minimized if the police can work with us on this, rather than simply serve as “cartel-enforcement” for the Licensed Producers.