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Washington treasurer pushes for cannabis banking bill as pot shop robberies soar

Washington state Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti says cash-heavy marijuana stores are getting targeted daily.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state’s treasurer is working as a lobbyist this week.

Mike Pellicciotti spent this week in Washington, D.C., meeting with members of the state’s Congressional delegation to help pot shop owners and their employees.

Pellicciotti, a Democrat, said the number of pot shops targeted by armed robbers is increasing, and he said the motive is simple.

“You rob the places where the cash is,” said Pellicciotti. “These robberies are tragic. But these robberies are also preventable.”

He blamed federal drug laws that prohibit national banks from getting involved with pot shops in Washington state. That causes most pot shop owners to make their stores cash-only, said Pellicciotti.

RELATED: Pot shop protection bill fails to clear Washington Legislature

The U.S. House of Representatives has repeatedly passed a bill to allow banks to get in the pot business, but the Senate has failed to pass the Secured and Fair Enforcement Banking (SAFE) Act.

Pellicciotti said with Democrats in control of the Senate, he likes the bill’s odds this year.

He said the rising number of robberies should also help get the bill passed.

”You can't have a $1.4 billion a year transaction taking place in the state of Washington in cash and not have the risk of these type of robberies…It's time,” said Pellicciotti.

Maggie Doyle, operations manager for three Green Lady Marijuana locations, said their stores found a Washington state-based bank that would allow for debit card transactions.

While her stores have reduced the amount of cash on hand, she said her employees are concerned for their safety.

"It's very frustrating because we are a business," said Doyle. "We're helping the community and we just want to be a member of that society, and we can't."