Speakers Corner: Pot shop break-ins frustrating store owners

Cannabis retailers are speaking out after a rash of break-ins while the Cannabis Council of Ontario says its working to address those concerns. Pat Taney reports.

By Pat Taney

For several days, a plywood board has covered the front door of the Right Puff Cannabis dispensary in London, Ont.

“That used to be a solid glass door. That’s how they got in,” said manager Crystal Casimir. “They smashed right through that!”

Inside, the scene is even worse. Workers were seen sweeping up shards of glass, remnants of the display cases that were also smashed.

“They got into everything, stealing whatever they can.”

While incredibly frustrating, this store has been through this before. It’s been hit by smash and grab bandits twice in nine days and it’s costly.

“These past several days have been a huge financial setback,” Casimir said. “We have to get all the windows and doors replaced and update security measures even more than we have. Not to mention all the product we lost too.”

Break-ins like this one are not rare.

“It’s definitely causing havoc for our industry,” said Casimir.

It’s an ongoing issue the Cannabis Council of Canada – or C3 – is working to address.

“We have heard about this situation being a problem in various places across Ontario,” said George Smitherman, President and CEO of C3. “My bank can afford to hire private security. The retail cannabis sector certainly cannot. The reality is the underlying economics for these stores is really challenging.”

While not the sole cause, Smitherman and others believe window coverings, required by law in Ontario, aren’t helping decrease crimes like these.

“It has been well known in retail circles that if you cannot see into a store it makes it a riskier environment for the people that work there,” Smitherman explained.

Under the law, cannabis retailers must hide merchandise from street view. But is that coming at a cost to security?

In August, the province of Alberta allowed cannabis dispensaries to remove the window coverings. While there are no plans to do so in Ontario, Smitherman is hopeful.

“I think that’s something that we’re taking more of an active interest in,” he said. “There is no doubt that we want to make sure that the people that are working in these retail environments across the country are safe.”


In London, Casimir isn’t certain removing window coverings is the only answer.

“I do believe it would be helpful to be open and clean but I also understand the security measures behind it and why they do it.”

Casimir says she never feels unsafe during normal operating hours.

“Our clients are amazing — everyone is like family.”

The break-ins at her store have happened in the early morning hours when they’re closed but she hopes something can be done and soon.

“If there’s a government fund for security staff that would be great as well. I don’t know the answer but I know something has to happen,” she said. “It’s a hard industry already and not the cash cow everyone thinks it is and these crimes are making it even tougher.”

Smitherman says he plans to meet with store owners across Ontario to get feedback on what C3 can do to help.

“We’re going to do our best to advocate on behalf of the frontline retailers. They are so important in the public health objective battle of winning over consumers from the illicit market. They are our front lines and we really have to do the utmost to support them.”

If you have an issue, story or question you’d like us to look into, reach out to us here

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today