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Updated: Oct 9, 2022

In November 2021, at least 175 shots were fired in the course of over 25 burglaries targeting cannabis businesses in the Bay Area

Several months ago, I was talking with a Hermosa friend about how we must do everything we can to stop pot shops from getting into Hermosa Beach.

She let me know people in our city have a lot of other, more important, worries on their minds. For instance, she asked, if I’d heard about the increase in crime.

I let her know legal retail sales of marijuana will contribute to more crime—like property crime and pot shop smash and grabs. Manhattan Beach just had a smash & grab in a jewelry store. Our bubble is on the radar for this kind of crime.

My good friend was thinking a legal pot shop in Hermosa is just about the personal choice to use or not use marijuana…but it’s a lot more than that.

It’s about how a legal retail outlet will impact everyone in our community. There are several unintended consequences and an increase in crime is just one of them.

Over 50% of California has a ban on legal retail, so we are not outliers, as proponents of Measure M suggest. We are actually in a beneficial position because we can look at the communities with legal pot shops to see what our future could hold if our ban is overturned.

For instance, in the Bay Area-- in the month of November 2021 alone—at least 175 shots were fired in the course of over 25 burglaries targeting pot shops. Some law enforcement were, and are not, getting too involved.

How badly do we want a store with an armed guard? It is not that difficult to go beyond our city’s boarders to buy whatever is wanted in a nearby community. We are 1.4 square miles. 1 shot fired in Hermosa Beach would be devastating.

So what about those armed guards? Why aren’t they keeping everyone safe? According to a study published on PubMed, “Crime isn’t higher in the area immediately surrounding marijuana outlets.

But adjacent areas saw about 84 more property crimes per year than neighborhoods without a nearby marijuana store.” An armed guard can protect the store itself, but not the residents who are most at risk.

Notably, a 2022 study done in California shows local jurisdictions with legal outlets increase youth use. Youth use is a crime. One way kids get it is through adults who legally purchase it.

Selling it to kids is the black market. There is no “grey” market. It’s a legal sale or it isn’t. The illicit market does not go away with legalization, it simply hides in plain sight, especially in California. We should expect the black market to increase in Hermosa Beach if we allow legal retail.

Part of why pot shops are targets of smash & grabs and armed robberies is not just that they are all-cash businesses, it’s because some of the most popular products are small, highly potent and valuable. Many haven’t heard the new products are nothing like the weed from yesteryear.

Like in a jewelry shop, it’s easy for a thief to grab a lot products and stuff them in a gym bag. And remember, the jewelry store in Manhattan Beach is not an all-cash business.

So, even if the law changes and pot shops accept credit cards, there will still be thieves. And the black market will still be re-selling it.

And how will our police force keep up? There’s a shortage of police officers already. What if one becomes disabled? Do we want them risking their lives for this?

This data was not available when we voted for legalization. Some of it has come out very recently--even in the time since the initiative to overturn our ban was put in process (a little over a year ago).

So, if someone says we want legal marijuana because we voted for legalization several years ago is completely ignoring two important factors.

First, the recent data showing the potential harms to communities. Secondly, that many here only voted to legalize it because we wanted to keep some people out of jail.

And that’s it.

What business or tax dollars is worth a stray bullet hitting an innocent bystander in Hermosa Beach? This is not a cupcake shop. These robberies happen at all hours of the day.

It’s not hard to imagine a getaway car careening through our neighborhoods and colliding with a kid on an electric bike? What amount of tax dollars can pay for that misery? The loss of safety in our entire community? There is no location where our kids don’t bike or walk or live.

If we have legal retail, will we need to hire more police officers to keep up with the extra crime? If so, who will pay for that? The answer: We all will. In this unprecedented time of rising crime in California, we must do everything we can to keep our own community safe.

Isn’t that why we live here?


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