TACOMA, Wash. - The recent spike in deadly violence in our states' retail marijuana stores is pushing regulators to reevaluate security protocols, and spurring elected leaders to propose new laws aimed to protect industry employees and the public at large.
Three people have been killed during recent robberies at marijuana stores across Puget Sound. Most recently, an employee at World of Weed in Tacoma was shot and killed during a robbery March 19. Police are on the hunt for the teenagers believed to be responsible for his murder.
The victim was identified as 29-year-old Jordan Brown.
On Tuesday, industry professionals met with regulators at the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board to discuss challenges and solutions. Some pot store owners expressed worry about the rise of violent crimes, and how current regulations might make their facilities targets.
"It’s a sad and tragic event that nobody should have to go through," said World of Weed owner, Alden Linn.
Linn was one of several business owners who talked with regulators. Dockside Cannabis owner Arron Varney told the board that private security could help, but likely only for those who can afford it.
"The folks able to afford armed guards are getting them," said Varney. "Those that are even bigger targets today than they were yesterday."
Business owners and industry advocates shared frustration that the federal government continues to recognize marijuana as a controlled substance. That means banking options are limited for store owners, leaving a cash-only enterprise that endangers both employees and the public.
Legislation meant to offer relief stalled at the federal level. Now, local governments have to get creative.
"You have a certain group of people being preyed on," said King County council member Reagan Dunn.
Dunn introduced legislation that could allow some marijuana sales tax revenues to pay for increased patrols and other measures. But until banking policies change, Dunn says cash-only operations like dispensaries put everyone at risk.
"We’ve got to get away from cash-only businesses," said Dunn. "It’s dangerous and not realistic."
Dunn said $4.5 million of that tax revenue could be used, at least in part, to help increase security for stores like World of Weed. Linn said they plan to stay closed until they can figure out a security plan.
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