A top official in Washington state went to Washington, D.C. last week. The topic: a recent spate of marijuana dispensary robberies that have occurred in the state. The solution: legislation that has gone dormant on Capitol Hill.
Mike Pellicciotti, the treasurer of Washington state, was in the nation’s capitol. He met “with members of the state’s Congressional delegation to help pot shop owners and their employees,”
Pellicciotti contends that the cannabis dispensaries in the state have become prime targets for criminals. This is due to the large amounts of cash on hand at those establishments.
“You rob the places where the cash is,” Pellicciotti, as quoted by the news outlet. “These robberies are tragic. But these robberies are also preventable.”
Cash Problems Have Plagued the Industry Since State Legalization
Washington, which legalized recreational pot use for adults through a voter-passed initiative in 2012, has seen a spike in cannabis dispensary robberies as of late. An armed robbery of a marijuana shop last week in Bellevue, Washington turned deadly, with one of three suspects fatally
On Saturday, an employee at a cannabis shop in Tacoma, Washington was shot and killed in a robbery.
A lawmaker in Washington, Republican state Senator Jim Honeyford, introduced a bill this winter to address this problem. If passed, the bill would add an extra year to the prison sentence of someone who is convicted of first or second degree robbery of a marijuana dispensary. This would be the same punishment given to individuals who rob pharmacies. Honeyford echoed what Pellicciotti said. He noted that the concentration of cash at cannabis shops makes them even more vulnerable.
“When people would ask the infamous bank robber Willie Sutton why he robbed banks, Sutton simply replied, ‘Because that’s where the money is.’ Well, that’s why people rob marijuana retailers,” Honeyford said last month,
“The number of robberies of cannabis stores is on the rise, and this bill would make improvements for not just the benefit of the retailers themselves, but for the public safety of the community as a whole,” Honeyford added.
Honeyford’s bill passed in the Washington state Senate, before dying in the state House of Representatives.
The SAFE Banking Act Holds the Key
As Pellicciotti sees it, there is another remedy to the problem. The solution is a bill known as the SAFE Banking Act that has passed in the U.S. House of Representative. The SAFE Banking Act is currently languishing in the U.S. Senate.
The legislation, first introduced by Democratic Congressman Ed Perlmutter back in 2013, would clear the way for banks to engage in financial services with cannabis companies operating in states where adult-use pot is legal. The U.S. House passed the SAFE Banking Act last month for the sixth time overall. However, the Senate has yet to act.
”You can’t have a $1.4 billion a year transaction taking place in the state of Washington in cash and not have the risk of these type of robberies… it’s time,” said Pellicciotti,