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I help cannabis businesses prevent robberies. Spending 12 years as a cop taught me how to think like a criminal.

Chris Eggers in his days as a San Francisco police officer.

Courtesy of Chris Eggers

  • Chris Eggers, 39, was a San Francisco Police Department officer for 12 years.
  • He quit to run a consultancy that helps marijuana businesses prevent and respond to burglaries.
  • “Over the three years I was undercover, I learned to think like a cannabis robber,” he says.

This as-told-to essay is based on a transcribed conversation with Chris Eggers, 39, a former police officer who runs Cannabis Compliant Security Solutions in the San Francisco Bay Area. It has been edited for length and clarity.

You learn a lot being an undercover cop. You learn to walk and talk like a criminal gang member. You learn how to remain calm among your newfound colleagues, when one wrong word could mean a gun pressed to the head.

And you learn exactly how such gangs go about robbing businesses like legal cannabis dispensaries: which security measures they take note of, what kind of buildings they target, and how quickly they aim to get in and out.

Over the three years I was undercover, I learned to think like a cannabis robber.

So when I decided to leave law enforcement at the start of 2021, I knew exactly which career to go into next. And, no, it wasn’t burglary. It was cannabis security.

It’s strange to admit as a former cop, but I’ve always had a soft spot for cannabis. I saw a close relative of mine struggle with alcoholism for years before they replaced their booze with marijuana and completely turned their life around. It’s just one anecdote — I’m not saying cannabis is a cure for alcoholism — but it made me appreciate the value this plant can bring to people’s lives, because I mostly just saw what it could take away.

You don’t spend 12 years as a police officer without seeing countless people, disproportionately people of color, go down for nonviolent cannabis offences.

Now that I’m out of law enforcement, I want to turn over a new leaf and help protect those who celebrate this plant. In the US, cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, meaning most banks won’t touch the industry, so sales are mostly done in cash. This makes dispensaries dangerously enticing to criminal gangs. 

So I spend my days visiting legal cannabis businesses and assessing their security risks. Sometimes I’ll even call up one of my old contacts — the ones who are now out of the larceny game — to get their perspective. How would they rob this store? 

Once I’ve listed a building’s weak spots, I work with the owners to make a custom security plan. This can require new cameras, new panic buttons, and new training for security guards to help them deescalate situations. Those communication skills can make all the difference when the panic button’s been hit and the cops are on their way. We had a saying back on the force, “I’d rather talk to you for five minutes than fight you for 30 seconds.”

But even a fortified dispensary won’t withstand a certain level of criminal aggression. So another part of my job is walking a client through plan B: their insurance options. We’ll protect what we can, but we’ll also have the paperwork in place to recoup any losses.

Unfortunately, a lot of dispensaries in the Bay Area have been turning to their plan B recently. Dozens of cannabis businesses were raided in November, and security guards found themselves in shoot-outs with criminal gangs. At least one person was shot (not fatally, thankfully), and the combined losses of the affected businesses was estimated to be at least $5 million.

None of my clients were hit, but I was quickly inundated with new ones that were. Phone call after phone call, I heard their desperation. They’re sick of the violence. They just want their staff to be safe and their products to be protected.

At the same time in late November, many store owners in Oakland were calling on the city for new protections, including faster police response times and a tax repeal, so they can have more funds to spend on better safeguards.

I couldn’t agree more. 

That may sound cynical coming from a cannabis security consultant, but I want to see dispensaries thrive regardless of whether they’re a client of mine or not. This industry was hard-won by activists; it deserves protection.

Eleven months after starting the business, I’ve just taken on my first employee to help with the bigger workload. Our client base is still growing, and we’re even having security discussions with municipalities that are considering lifting their commercial cannabis bans.

All in all, my average day definitely looks different than it did a year ago. There’s a lot of work to do, but I’m still so glad I overcame my doubts. As a former cop, I wasn’t exactly sure whether I’d be wanted.

That changed when I was starting out my firm and a friend of mine in the industry — a former felon, no less — introduced me to another business owner. She said, “Yeah, he was a cop. Yeah, he was undercover, but he’s one of us.”

To be welcomed into this industry by the people who helped build it, that means everything.

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