EVERETT, Wash. - Dozens of robberies have been reported at pot shops across the state. Those robberies have become more violent, and recently -- deadly.
As more and more criminals target these cash-based shops, store owners say not everyone can afford armed guards putting a target on those left unprotected.
Andy Pham, 23, an employee at Marijuana Club 99, was pistol-whipped by an armed robber.
"I was vacuuming this area, he just stormed in the door with a gun went straight to my face and asked for the money and to put in the bag very fast," Pham said.
He says walking back into the store Sunday was an eye-opener, realizing he was attacked.
Pham has two staples in his head, the aftermath of his fight or flight instincts kicking in, but rather than caving, he fought.
"I was bleeding, but I just knew that I just have to keep on going, keep on fighting," Pham said.
Marijuana Club 99 is a small shop, without armed security guards, which means less cash on the till too. According to Pham, this was his main reason for taking on the robber.
"If we lose that money, it just puts a lot of backfire on us and then we have to find a way to recoup and everything, but I just didn't want it to happen," Pham said.
Surveillance videos showing the violence are being handed to police left and right as nearly 80 armed robberies have been reported across Western Washington since January.
"A massive public safety crisis that is roaring through the state," Liquor and Cannabis Board Chair, David Postman, said.
Now, businesses and employees are fearful of when they’re next.
"They were in and out in just four minutes. I mean, they got money, they got product and of course, none of that matters because our employees aren't safe," Gypsy Greens Owner Jenna Rodriguez explained as she too has been targeted.
"What I fear is people are making the choice between liability for their business and safety for their employees and that’s an impossible situation to be in," Dockside Cannabis Owner, Aaron Varney said.
Business owners are worried about their employees and the dangers they face daily.
"I was mentally prepared for it," Pham said.
A sad reality Pham and everyone working in the cannabis industry is faced with as the alarming headlines stack up.
Now come the solutions:
"If every store in the state could have a little training," a business owner.
"Get a tax credit for next year or be there something that allows us to take action," Varney said.
As crime increases, shop owners are asking the Liquor and Cannabis Board for armed security guards, training to protect employees and additional funds to cover the costs of the safety protocols they’re adding out of their pocket.
While Pham knows he did wrong in standing up he has a warning for anyone trying to break in.
"We're not going to let you come in and rob every take everything for free, everything that we work for," Pham said.
Business owners are pushing for the SAFE Bank Act which would allow federally regulated banks to serve pot shops like any other business.