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Washington Senate passes pot shop protection bill

Senate Bill 5927 would add a year to a prison sentence of someone convicted of first- or second-degree robbery of a cannabis retailer.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A Senate-approved measure would help protect Washington cannabis retailers if it becomes law, the bill's supporters say.

Senate Bill 5927, passed by the Senate on Thursday, would add a year to a prison sentence of someone convicted of first- or second-degree robbery of a cannabis retailer. It's the same sentence that is given to someone who robs a pharmacy.

“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,” said bill sponsor Sen. Jim Honeyford (R-Sunnyside). “Due to federal banking rules, these businesses are almost entirely cash-only operations, making them a target for robberies and a magnet for criminals.

“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.”

The passage of the bill in the Senate follows rising concerns over violent robberies at cannabis shops.

Tom Bout, the founder of the Cannabis Professionals Network, made a spreadsheet tracking the crimes he could find records for. He counted more than 30 crimes since November 2021.

A spokesperson for the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board said it has been working to communicate safety guidelines with business owners.

The state Liquor and Cannabis Board said it is communicating these safety tips with cannabis retailers: 

  • Hire armed security guards
  • Make frequent cash deposits so there isn't much cash available in shops
  • Post signs in businesses explaining that staff don't have access to much cash
  • Clearly communicate safety guidelines with staff so they know what to do in the event of a robbery.

Bout said the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board is not doing enough to protect cannabis retailers. 

"They have not communicated with the stores. Like, you'd think that they would put on an alert to let everyone know that this has happened,” he said during a previous interview.

SB 5927 moves to the House for consideration.