Police & Thieves Dispensary Owners Kelsy Yates and David Tomas Martinez Talk Art, Marijuana and Their New Venture

Police & Thieves Dispensary Owners Kelsy Yates and David Tomas Martinez Talk Art, Marijuana and Their New Venture

After the purchase of Frosted Leaf, the couple felt for various reasons the necessity to rebrand the cannabis company.

ArtSeptember 01, 2022

Dear Rooster Readers, you up? Next in the Police & Thieves advertorial series are co-owners and co-founders Kelsy Yates and David Tomas Martinez. They are partners in the business of life and the life of business, which is to say they spend a lot of time together. And Police & Thieves is yet another one of their collaborations. 

PØT: Tell us about the name Police & Thieves, where does it come from and how you decided this would be the name of the company?

KELSY YATES: After the purchase of Frosted Leaf, I felt for various reasons the necessity to rebrand. After considering names like McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, and Mervyn’s, David proposed Police & Thieves, which resonated immediately. However, I am always considerate of the haecceities of ideas and needed to discuss the context around the name and why it should be named after a 1970’s reggae song that most people wouldn’t know. After learning more about Junior Murvin and the history of resistance associated with the song, no other name seemed capable of better encapsulating our mission of positive good in the community via marijuana. Now Police & Thieves is an inextricable part of our life. It’s the name of our company, and it has become a theme song for our life, whether accompanying our family as we have dinner, in the car, or during a lazy summer afternoon with a glass of wine, there is Murvin’s falsetto voice in the background.

DAVID TOMAS MARTINEZ: My formative years were spent as a gang member in southeast San Diego. During the summer me and other budding gangsters would drive with the older homies to the old roller coaster at Mission Beach. The drive to the beach was always my favorite part as at least four teenagers sat cramped in the backseat, passing a bottle and a few joints while sharing odyssean-level stories of what we were about to do. One big homie, 8 Ball, loved reggae music. Being high and drunk with Eek-A-Mouse or Barrington Levy reverberating out of the trunk are indelible memories that helped mold who I am as a person. One of the songs that resonated for me was Junior Murvin’s “Police & Thieves.” My history with the song, and the song itself, are stories of retribution, narratives of circuitous goods coming from labyrinthine social and cultural structures, and while I understood that for those that didn’t recognize the allusion of the name or that the name might seem culturally anachronistic, I was unfazed. The beauty of the song, the singularity of the phrase, the songs binary breaking theme, and the personal resonance made Police & Thieves an obvious choice. Kelsy, who’s judgement I trust unflinchingly, agreed, and off we went.   

PØT: You both have backgrounds in the arts. How has art and education influenced your interpretation of marijuana’s milieu? 

KY: I worked as an interior designer for several years in New York. I often rely on these design skills when building our brand. While David and I are creating a luxury brand in the cannabis industry, I think it is more apt to describe Police & Thieves as an aesthetically-forward space. We have spent a lot of time designing our facades (check out the murals), packaging, merchandize, apparel, interiors, and exterior signage (all coming soon!). The cross between art and business lies in aesthetic choices and how we choose to curate the specific experience we hope our customers will have. The decision to lean towards a more artistically inclined experience can be directly attributed to my background and education in the arts. David and I both trained in the arts, and to a large extent we are just transferring the type of ontological conversations we have over dinner to Police & Thieves, which are conversations we trust that others are also having and likewise crave. 

DTM: I’ve been truly fortunate for any success I’ve had in literature, and those achievements are indubitably a reflection of the writers and artists I have studied under and beside. I am deeply appreciative of the relationships that I have—amazing minds across the country that I trust to help steer my ideas. Internalizing the lessons of poetry has taught me about community and working within a tradition (breaking and sustaining its values), and those edifications are invaluable tools. Honestly, I believe this is what aesthetics truly are, not codified laws that dictate taste, but a reciprocal set of values that a community agrees are beneficial. Also, having a background in art has fed my innate preference for an extra-utilitarian ethos. I want Police & Thieves to always be aimed at the good, and to hopefully look good while doing it.