File photo

File photo

Cannabis stakeholders want cash out of the equation amid rash of robberies

State regulators say action from Congress is required for cannabis industry to use credit cards.

With a rash of armed robberies among cash-only cannabis dispensaries across the state, state regulators and local stakeholders are looking to Congress to pass legislation that would allow the businesses to use federally-backed banks and to make non-cash transactions.

On March 29, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board held a roundtable meeting with cannabis retailers, industry advocates and state leaders to discuss the dangerous state of the industry and ways it could be supported by policy changes.

LCB Board Chair David Postman said there had been over 70 armed robberies at cannabis dispensaries all over the state that had occurred in a period of less than 90 days. One robbery at World of Weed in Tacoma left a 29-year-old employee, Jordan Brown, fatally wounded.

Alden Linn, owner of World of Weed, said his store had typically gone “above and beyond” when it came to security measures and policies, but now he said he and his staff had enjoyed a “false sense of security” after a team of four armed robbers quickly overpowered security and staff.

Aaron Varney, owner of Dockside Cannabis in Seattle, called the current state of the industry a “public safety crisis” and said he would be looking to hire well-trained armed guards at his stores that will likely cost what he estimated to be somewhere around $70 an hour for properly trained individuals.

He said he is already aware of other dispensary owners who have had to layoff budtenders to hire armed security guards.

Varney said that for dispensary workers, who have been deemed essential frontline workers since the beginning of the pandemic, the stress resulting from having to meet the challenges of the pandemic has been “palpable.”

Varney said that it was once explained to him that the cannabis industry was a “compliance industry,” and that having a dispensary was not necessarily about selling cannabis as it was about complying with all the regulations and red tape imposed by the state government. He said the problem of robberies and safety in dispensaries is a systemic problem that requires a systemic solution from regulators.

Varney estimated that of all the cash that dispensaries are required to keep on hand because financial institutions won’t bank with them, more than 45 percent of it is tax revenue owed to the LCB and the state. He raised this point to emphasize the state’s responsibility to protect the private businesses that are at risk due to imposed regulations.

Washington State Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti said that even though about three out of every four states have legalized cannabis, it still remains outlawed as a Schedule One drug by the federal government.

Michael Correia, lobbyist with the National Cannabis Industry Association, said credit card processors and financial institutions are scared of the possibility of punitive action by the Department of Justice. This is why they do not want to get involved with the cannabis industry.

Owner of Gypsy Greens dispensary Jenna Rodriguez said her store has paid employees with checks from her business just to have their accounts with federally-backed banks canceled. She also said having to deposit cash from her business comes with “outrageous fees.”

Many pointed to the policy changes outlined in the Safe Banking Act in Congress as being the saving grace of the challenged cannabis industry that would allow them to bank like traditional businesses. The legislation has passed several times in the House and never in the Senate.

Postman said state regulators and industry stakeholders must “demand that Congress works on the safe banking act,” but prepare as if they are not.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@issaquahreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.issaquahreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

File photo.
King County Council approves creation of Cannabis Safety Taskforce amid rash of dispensary robberies

The multi-agency task force will cooperate to find ways to improve safety in the cash-only industry.

Screenshot from ORCA website
New ORCA system launches for regional transit across the Puget Sound

Overhaul includes new website, mobile application and digital business account manager.

Judged by XII: A King County Local Dive podcast. The hands shown here belong to Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson, who has been charged with homicide in the 2019 death of Jesse Sarey.
JUDGED BY XII (Episode 4): Foster mom wants accountability in Auburn cop’s upcoming murder trial

Special podcast series explores Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson’s role in the death of Jesse Sarey.

Sunset Elementary School. Courtesy of Google.
Sunset Elementary School cancels classes over COVID-19 challenges

The school will be closed on May 16 and May 17.

Courtesy of Cougar Mountain Zoo.
Cougar Mountain Zoo launches nationwide interactive class

The class will take place on May 17 at 4:00 p.m. and will show eating habits of animals.

FILE PHOTO: King County Sheriff’s Office deputies.
Dozens of King County Sheriff’s Office employees left jobs instead of getting vaccinated

This added on to the existing number of vacancies in the department.

Pamela Stuart (Screenshot from Twitter)
King County Council chooses Pamela Stuart to fill Sammamish City Council vacancy

The seat became vacant when Ken Gamblin resigned on January 17.

Courtesy of Raintown Realty.
Raintown Realty partners with Side to assist with evolving real estate market

According to Raintown Realty, in 2021 the company garnered $113 million in transaction volume.

King County logo
King County audit finds backlog of property tax exemption applications for seniors, people with disabilities, and disabled veterans

The auditors found that program expansions lead to three-times the amount of applications.

Most Read