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Washington treasurer pushes Congress for solution to rash of violent pot shop robberies

Mar 21, 2022, 12:09 PM | Updated: Mar 22, 2022, 11:18 am
Pot shop robberies, weed...
Police at the scene of a pot shop robbery. (KIRO 7 News)
(KIRO 7 News)

With Western Washington experiencing a rash of violent pot shop robberies over the last few months, state Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti is pushing for Congress to pass a bill that he believes would provide a simple solution.

Over the weekend, an employee at a Tacoma marijuana dispensary was shot and killed during an armed robbery. Last Thursday, a suspect took an employee at a Covington pot shop hostage, ending in the suspect being shot and killed by another store employee. Other similar incidents have become increasingly more common, given that dispensaries are required to have large quantities of cash on hand due to restrictions over the use of credit and debit cards linked to banks.

Pellicciotti hopes to take that factor out of the equation, but will need help from the federal government.

“We were the first state to legalize recreational sales of cannabis a decade ago, and it’s time for Congress to act and make sure that we address the public safety needs we have in the state, and that’s to get these businesses out of being a cash-only business,” he told KTTH’s Jason Rantz Show.

In order to do that, Congress would need to pass what’s being called the Safe Banking Act, which would allow banks to conduct financial transactions related to the sale of cannabis. But because marijuana is illegal at the federal level, it’s been difficult to convince Senators to make an exception for states where it has been legalized.

And while the bill has died in the U.S. Senate on more than one occasion, Pellicciotti is optimistic that this may finally be the right time to push it across the finish line.

“There is a clear consensus and bipartisan support, and that just needs to pass now,” he said. “The time has come — there’s a window for this to pass, and I’m doing everything I can to see that it passes.”

That’s had Pellicciotti meeting with Washington’s Congressional delegation, in addition to “very productive” meetings with other potential stakeholders, including with the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO).

“I feel like there might be a path and I discussed with them different ways that we might be able to get this included in legislation that would be moving through the U.S. Senate over the next several months,” he described.

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Washington treasurer pushes Congress for solution to rash of violent pot shop robberies