Cannabis stores in Canada continue to be targets for robbers and burglars, while retailers say they are doing what they can to mitigate risks.
A recent string of violent armed robberies in Calgary made headlines in the last few weeks, adding to the number of burglaries, thefts and vandalism at cannabis stores in several provinces in recent weeks and months.
Police recently made arrests related to that string of armed robberies in Calgary, and two men were also recently arrested on charges relating to another armed cannabis store robbery, this time in Gleichen, Alberta, just outside of Calgary.
Other stores in Calgary have also been previously targeted.
A business in BC was also recently burglarized on December 6, with $2,500 worth of cannabis products stolen from a store in Masset, on Graham Island in Haida Gwaii. The thieves gained entry by breaking the front window of the store.
Cannabis growers and processors have not been immune, either. Earlier this year, at least two cannabis producers in BC’s Lower Mainland were the victims of early-morning burglaries.
Alberta and BC have repealed their rules that required stores to have window coverings, which retailers said made their employees less safe in such incidents. Ontario is also considering such a change.
Retailers say they are having to spend more money to secure their stores as this new “cost of doing business” continues.
Brionne Lavoie, the owner of the Frontier Cannabis store in Masset that was recently burglarized, says he’s now installing heavy vault doors on his storage rooms to avoid similar break-ins in the future. In addition, the value of the cannabis stolen and damage to the store was below the deductibles for his insurance.
“At the end of the day it’s all deterrence,” says Lavoie. “If someone wants to break in or cause harm, they’re going to find a way without the extent of bank security, it’s just one of those things.”
Lisa Bigioni, co-founder and CEO of Stok’d Cannabis, which has four retail locations in Ontario and experienced two break-ins the week before Christmas 2022, told StratCann earlier this year that they have made several upgrades to their properties.
“Metal gates have now been installed in our stores, and we sleep a lot better at night. It’s been costly. The gates were about $2,000 per store.”
“The fact that we’re compliant with our security cameras helped us capture them in action,” says Bigioni. “And this helped the police find them. In both cases, the police arrived before we did. The detective assigned to the cases was fantastic, and kept us well-informed along the way. Based on the evidence, he was confident the guys would be caught, which they were less than a week later.”
Ryan Roch, who owns two cannabis stores just outside Calgary, says he has a similar perspective, saying retailers can guard against this by being more vigilant with security measures.
“Just keep your head on a swivel,” says Roch. “Do cash drops on a regular basis so there’s no excess cash sitting around. Make sure security cameras are working. Make sure staff are properly trained. Make sure you have panic buttons. There’s a lot you can do to make sure it’s a much safer environment.”