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California’s High Stakes Holiday Heists

cannabis robberies
The reinforced back fence didn't deter the thieves. PHOTOS Preferred Gardens


California’s High Stakes Holiday Heists

Violent robberies are plaguing the Golden State’s already stricken cannabis industry. Preferred Gardens’ founder asks if enough is being done to stop the rising tide.

A wave of crime targeting cannabis companies has been rising steadily in recent years. Unable to use traditional banking systems, many cannabis companies often have large amounts of cash on site, along with highly valuable cannabis products that can be easily flipped on the illicit market. This makes them tempting targets for gangs and criminal organizations. Nowhere are these attacks more prolific than in California, where cannabis robberies continue to ravage legal facilities.

Preferred Gardens‘ founder and CEO, David Polley, has been cultivating cannabis since the days of California’s medical market. The company’s Sacramento facility was built in 2020 and features prison-like security after he invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in installing high-end infrastructure.

At around 2 a.m. on Christmas morning, there was a flurry of activity at Preferred Gardens. Sadly, it wasn’t Santa; instead, seven masked men heavily armed with guns and crowbars systematically destroyed the facility. 

Despite ample security at the facility that costs tens of thousands of dollars each month, Polley awoke on Christmas Day to countless missed calls, texts and notifications that the doors to his building were open.

“I knew it was a robbery because we’re in the heart of the cannabis zone in Sacramento and, unfortunately, these robberies are happening every single night,” Polley told Cannabis Now.

It took police ninety minutes to respond to the alarm—well under the standard call time—with local law enforcement blaming staff shortages. California standards require 90% of all 911 calls to be answered within 15 seconds, but according to a local news source, only 88% of calls going into the Sacramento Police Department meet that requirement.  

Security footage reveals that the perpetrators were in the facility for half an hour. “They came in, stole a bunch of stuff, left for about 10 minutes and came back to take more,” he says. 

Thieves destroyed grow rooms.

Security Issues

Polley believes the police response would be different if this were happening in any other industry.

“This is just happening every day right now. All these robberies cost a minimum of hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he says. “If it were a ‘normal’ business, the police department would be all over it.”

After the robbery, an Instagram post by Preferred Gardens stated that the facility had “highly paid armed guards on both sides of the grow, a prison fence, steel gates, live video monitoring, high tech alarms, 3 separate camera systems and motion sensors.”

Polley says that people were stunned to hear he’d been targeted. “’No way. How does that place? How do they get past?’ Everyone says inside job, but my team is like family, so it’s nothing to do with us,” he says, confirming that he’s looking into all avenues.

The government facility beside Polley’s also has 24-hour guards. But for unknown reasons, the guard was either away from their post or not at the facility.

Like other regulated cannabis businesses operating within the law, Preferred Gardens is insured. However, as so often is the case, Polley says his insurance company refuses to pay out, even though he pays a substantial monthly amount on his policies.

cannabis robberies Preferred Gardens
Preferred Gardens’ Sacramento facility suffered extensive damage on Christmas Day.

Cannabis Robberies: An Ongoing Problem

While robberies like the one suffered by Polley are happening across the country, he thinks that other states aren’t as lenient on lawbreakers as they are in the Golden State and that it seems like California “is a lost cause.”

“I know people who spent millions and millions of dollars building facilities in the Bay Area and they’ve been decimated,” Polley says. “After the robberies, the police were telling them just to go ahead and shoot people that come into the facility because they were understaffed.”

He believes the robbers from the Bay Area could be responsible for those occurring in Sacramento. In a similar scenario to what’s happened in Oakland, local law enforcement isn’t doing enough to catch the perpetrators and press charges.

“Law enforcement isn’t helping; they watch these robberies happen and don’t pursue the suspects,” Polley says, adding that these curveballs are “part of the game.” However, he still believes the law can take greater action and catch the responsible criminals.

“People are losing their entire livelihood from these robberies. I hope law enforcement steps up their game and does something because it’s really easy for them to end it,” he says. 

The most important thing for Polley is that no one from his team was present or injured at the time of the robbery.

“We’re pretty resilient to this kind of stuff from the medical days of robbery and raids,” he says. “This industry is rough. You have to be ready for anything. We move on, we learn something—we do whatever we have to do.”

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