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'Keeps me awake at night': Seattle pot shop owners increase security after spike in robberies

The state Liquor and Cannabis Board said there have been more than 50 robberies at cannabis businesses this year. Many of them have been armed.

WASHINGTON — Employing armed security guards and installing a "man trap" door system at each Uncle Ike's pot shop became necessities, according to owners of the cannabis dispensaries.

Ian Eisenberg, co-owner of the five Uncle Ike's locations in the Puget Sound region, said it is obvious why his staff is a target. Marijuana products in dispensaries are not legal everywhere, and these businesses are forced to have a large amount of cash on hand and any given time.

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) said it will host an online roundtable Tuesday morning to discuss a spike in armed robberies at pot shops and hear directly from cannabis retailers, state leaders and law enforcement.

The LCB said there have been more than 50 robberies at cannabis businesses, many of them armed, this year in Washington state.

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Eisenberg said the shortage of police officers is also impacting patrols in neighborhoods where their stores are located.

“The situation has gotten so severe,” said Eisenberg. “We’re forced now to protect our employees and customers, to have armed security. The shops right now that don’t want to spend the money on armed security, they’re still getting robbed."

Eisenberg said more pot shops could likely afford armed security if city or state tax credits were in place. He said many of these businesses are "barely breaking even."

While having armed security is expensive, Eisenberg said it is needed.

An Uncle Ike's location was robbed last year. However, Eisenberg said there hasn't been a robbery at one of their locations since new security measures were put in place.

“Now that people have been shot and killed, it’s gotten even worse. We’re taking it even more seriously," explained Eisenberg. "This is the thing that keeps me awake at night worrying about it, and that’s why we’ve invested a lot of money for our staff."

Several issues will be discussed during Tuesday's roundtable. Eisenberg said it's also important to look at the amount of jail time convicted armed robbers are getting so they stay off the streets.

"If somebody robs any business with a gun, it needs to be taken seriously, and it’s not right now," said Eisenberg.

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