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Burglaries at Marijuana Businesses in California

Mar 10 2017, by Jessica McElfresh in Legal Blog, Marijuana Charges, Medical Marijuana

California’s marijuana businesses have become targets for crime. In Logan Heights last October, burglars broke into a vacant building to go through a shared wall with medical marijuana dispensary, Organic Inhale. Police arrived to find two men loading marijuana into a sedan in the alley behind the shop. The two men and a woman who was driving the car were arrested. More recently in January, Golden State Group in Mar Vista was robbed. A dispensary employee was shot during the crime and pronounced dead at the scene. Two suspects are at large.

As the marijuana industry in California grows, independent marijuana dispensaries are becoming more at risk for burglary, robbery, theft, and violent crimes. These crimes lead to felony criminal charges as well as civil repercussions for the offenders. The victims of the crimes, including the owners, employees, and customers of the dispensaries must then also navigate both the criminal and civil court systems to receive justice and compensation for their injuries.

Anyone who has been affected by a crime committed within a marijuana dispensary should work with an experienced San Diego burglary lawyer who can explain their rights and legal options. Contact McElfresh Law today at (858) 756-7107 to learn more.

Marijuana Businesses in California Are at Risk for Crime

Marijuana businesses are particularly at risk for burglary and theft due to the amount of cash kept on the premises. Many dispensaries have a significant influx of cash each day since they cannot accept major credit or debit cards. There are few, if any, major credit card companies that are comfortable working within the marijuana industry. While most retail stores would deposit cash at the bank each night, marijuana dispensaries are forced to keep extremely large quantities of cash on hand in registers and safes. They are unable to deposit that cash at banks because federally insured banks are prohibited from accepting marijuana business proceeds. This situation is unlikely to change under the new Trump administration, which has already signaled an intention to increase enforcement of federal marijuana laws – a shift from the Obama administration’s stance, which gradually made way for states to create their own marijuana industries.

Additionally, while marijuana is legal in California, it is not readily available to everyone. Thieves may be interested in stealing the products to sell within and outside of the state. They might also steal expensive marijuana-related tools that can be sold for a great deal of money.

Marijuana businesses must be careful in regard to burglary and take precautions. Owners should work with an experienced San Diego marijuana lawyer to understand the best ways to handle large amounts of cash, including hiring on-location security and using armored vehicles to transfer cash to a discrete and safe location.

Marijuana Dispensary Crimes Lead to Burglary Charges

Burglary is a specific type of crime in California, though it is often related to robbery and theft. Under state law, an individual can be charged with residential or commercial burglary depending on the victim of the offense. Commercial burglary, also known as second-degree burglary, occurs when an individual enters a property (with or without force) with the intent to commit a felony. The property is generally a building where no one lives, like a school, warehouse, bank, store, or marijuana dispensary. Commercial burglary can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending in the circumstances and the prosecutor’s discretion. A misdemeanor offense is punishable by up to one year in county jail. A felony commercial burglary offense can be punished with up to three years in county jail.

Robbery and Theft Charges Are Also Common

Robbery and theft are often the crimes committed during a burglary. Robbery occurs when someone uses force or threats to take someone or a business’s property. An individual going into a marijuana dispensary intending to commit a robbery and then brandishing a gun in order to obtain cash could be charged with both burglary and robbery. Robbery is charged as second- or first-degree. A first-degree robbery is one that takes place in a home, building, or someone at an ATM and is punishable by up to nine years in prison. Every other form of a robbery is a second-degree robbery that can be punished up to five years in prison.

Theft is when an individual unlawfully takes possession or control over someone else’s property. If an individual were to break into a closed marijuana dispensary at night and take cash or marijuana products while no employees were around, that individual could be charged with both burglary and theft. The level of the theft offense charged against the offender depends on the value of the property or money stolen.

Contact a San Diego Burglary Lawyer for Help

If you are dealing with a situation involving a burglary or robbery, contact attorney Jessica McElfresh right away. She has experience dealing with marijuana businesses as well as defendants in criminal cases. To find out how she can help you, call today at (858) 756-7107 to learn more.

Free consultation for criminal defense cases only. Dispensaries/collectives consultation requires a fee.

California marijuana laws change frequently. For updated information, see the following pages: Medicinal Uses of Marijuana and Recreational Marijuana Business