Anchorage grower loses $150K of pot in burglary
An Anchorage marijuana business lost a six-figure sum of pot during a burglary this week, leading its owner to offer a reward for information on the suspects – and ask that industry regulators take down online plans for his business which he says pose a security threat.
Dane Wyrick, the owner of cannabis cultivator Danish Gardens on Cinnabar Loop off Lake Otis Parkway, said he learned just after 1:30 a.m. Tuesday that his store had been burglarized.
“When I got to my shop, the employee entrance door was standing there wide open with a big hole through it,” Wyrick said. “There was a little bit of blood left on some of the glass.”
Police responded minutes later, according to a brief statement from APD spokesman MJ Thim. He declined to provide any further information on the case Thursday.
“Unknown suspect(s) forced entry into an exterior glass door and subsequently stole a significant amount of the business’s product,” Thim wrote.
According to Wyrick, several officers including a K-9 unit converged on the scene, but didn’t stay for long.
“They spent about 45 minutes doing a cursory search of the building to make sure nobody else was in there,” Wyrick said.
Dozens of surveillance cameras, required for marijuana firms under state law, recorded the burglary – as well as the suspects driving away with an estimated $150,000 worth of freshly packaged marijuana, ready for shipment to stores.
“They came through the entrance door (and) went directly upstairs to the room where the product was,” Wyrick said. “They didn’t bother to open up any other doors or anything, so they knew exactly where they were going and what they were looking for.”
Although Wyrick doesn’t know whether it was used in the burglary, he was angry that city officials had posted online the business overview he had submitted of Danish Gardens – with details ranging from room inventories and camera placements to Wyrick’s home address and phone number.
Wyrick questioned statements from Erika McConnell, director of the state Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office, that the online postings were necessary under the federal Freedom of Information Act. Although McConnell has generally been helpful in setting up marijuana businesses, he said, “I think she should be a little more concerned with what is going on.”
“We feel that’s extremely wrong – that the State of Alaska and the Municipality of Anchorage, no matter what regulations they’re working under, are jeopardizing our personal safeties and business,” Wyrick said. “It just doesn’t seem right that the state is putting out this information to anyone; a 6-year-old can go online and look up our business, and it’s just wrong.”
Danish Gardens and other Alaska marijuana businesses have raised the online-documents issue with regulators through their attorneys, Wyrick said, but have been “stonewalled” in response. He said he would be fine with the documents being available through written FOIA requests but being taken offline, so officials would have a record of who had requested victimized businesses’ plans.
McConnell said in an email Friday that FOIA wasn't the only factor in the posting of applications. State law requires that the public be allowed to object to pending applications by marijuana firms, which are public records.
"We are seeking a balance between allowing for public review of applications and the security concerns of applicants/licensees," McConnell wrote.
According to McConnell, the Marijuana Control Board adopted a revised application form late last month which omitted details on businesses' security systems. It will also remove a requirement for diagrams of applicants' premises, and considering the removal of pending applications from online records after the board takes action on them.
As surveillance images of the suspects have circulated on social media, Wyrick and Danish Gardens staff have received “hundreds” of tips ranging from as far afield as Florida and Texas about them.
“They’re coming from people who seem to think they know who these individuals are, and have given very credible information,” Wyrick said. “A lot of stuff is matching up.”
In the wake of the burglary, as well as reports of armed robberies at other local marijuana shops like Alaska Leaf, Wyrick says a $10,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of those responsible.
Beyond the cost of the stolen marijuana itself, Wyrick said he’s had to lay off some of his 24 staff just before Christmas and hire added security instead. He and his staff are “scared” in the wake of the break-in at Danish Gardens – Anchorage’s first licensed marijuana business and Alaska’s biggest.
“We know we’ll never recover what was lost – even if we get what was taken back, the state won’t let us put it back into inventory due to sanitation concerns,” Wyrick said. “If these people are willing to go after the largest (pot business) in the state and they’re willing to pull armed robberies at the smaller shops, they’re very brazen in their acts.”
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