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Officials Urging Cannabis Businesses To Beef Up Security After Increase In Robberies

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Sacramento City officials are urging cannabis businesses to review their security procedures as they've seen an increase in robberies in recent weeks. The thieves are mainly targeting distribution centers.

Christopher Cohen owns TotaLeaf Inc. They manufacturer and distribute a wide range of cannabis items from edibles to oils. Cohen's products are desirable to customers but lately have also been attracting thieves.

"We're being cashed-out and I'm worried," Cohen said. "Thieves are watching us. They know where we are, they're watching us during the day, they're watching our movements."

Cohen says they've already broken in. Over the past few months, he says thieves have stolen $80,000 worth of product and cash from his Sacramento warehouse. Police tell him organized gangs from Oakland are responsible, forcing him to make costly upgrades in security.

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"With steel doors, with cameras, with alarm systems, with fences inside, with bolted down safes, and it's expensive," he said.

Joe Devlin is Chief of Cannabis Policy and Enforcement for the city of Sacramento. He says the problem continues to be cash.

"The federal government still hasn't done anything about fixing the banking situation for all cannabis businesses across the country," Devlin said.

Since dealing in marijuana is still a federal crime, most banks won't allow cannabis businesses to open accounts, so Devlin said they're forced to deal all in cash, which naturally attracts thieves.

"They're crimes of opportunity," Delvin said.

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Devlin said police are investigating two robberies that have taken place over the past month alone. In one of them, he said, thieves stole $30,000 during a transfer between dispensary and distributor.

"We are again working with all of our operators to make sure their standard operating procedures are ensuring the safety of their employees, their businesses, and certainly their customers," Devlin said.

He suggests businesses keep quiet about when and where cash is moved and stored, even from employees and vary their routine when dealing with distributors.

"It's dangerous enough transferring our product around. It makes it doubly dangerous transferring all the cash around," Cohen said.

Cohen said he's decided to hire private security to watch his property, 24-7 around the clock.

Devlin stresses there have been no robberies involving customers thus far. The thieves are mainly targeting distribution operations. He believes if and when the cannabis industry goes cashless, crimes will go down and be reduced to more smash and grab type break-ins instead of targeted robberies.

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