Dori: Replacing word for ‘weed’ means more to state lawmakers than protecting human lives

Mar 25, 2022, 10:48 AM
Pot shop robberies, weed...
Police at the scene of a pot shop robbery. (KIRO 7 News)
(KIRO 7 News)

When given a chance to do something about the wave of 70-plus armed robberies since the start of the year involving pot shops in Washington state, local lawmakers did nothing in the most recent legislative session to stem the attacks – and in some cases, bloodshed.

State cannabis industry asks local leaders for help after deadly robberies

Instead, state legislators got behind House Bill 1210, to change the word from “marijuana” to “cannabis” in all state documents. KIRO Newsradio reporter Hanna Scott told listeners and me that it passed with bipartisan support, 83-13.

Why the need to change the word?

Bill sponsor Rep. Melanie Morgan (D-Parkland) told fellow lawmakers it’s because the word “marijuana is a reminder of the history of racism and persecution” in the United States. She cites a quote from Henry Anslinger, considered the first U.S. “drug czar,” who in the 1930s tied marijuana use to people of color.

Sadly, this 90-year-old reference does nothing to bring back the life of Jordan Brown, 29, of Gig Harbor. He is the positive young Black entrepreneur who was shot down Saturday night while working at World of Weed in Tacoma.

Brown was just one of three men who died from pot shop-related gunfire in the last week alone. Most assailants are armed and not afraid to shoot. Armed robbers target dispensaries like Brown’s because these retailers deal exclusively in cash; they can’t take credit or debit cards because federal law and banking systems still view cannabis as an illegal drug. And, by law, store operators are not allowed to have weapons inside.

In just the first two months of 2022, marijuana shops in Washington state were hit by at least 64 armed robberies – twice the number from all of 2021.

And yet, neither Congress nor the state Legislature has fixed it.

But they could have.

State Senate Bill 5927 would have made penalties for someone robbing a weed shop similar to that of someone robbing a pharmacy. It also would have required robberies be reported to both the state Liquor and Cannabis Board and the Washington State Patrol. Instead, cannabis store owners are having to track each other’s holdups on their own.

This state bill never made it to a House vote. A measure that would have created a statewide task force with a coordinated response didn’t survive to the final budget. Meanwhile, police response time is down after months and months of anti-cop rhetoric.

On a national level, there’s no real action either. The SAFE Banking Act – which would allow cannabis stores to use credit and debit cards — is stalling in the U.S. Senate. With bipartisan support, it has passed the U.S. House six times – but New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker continues to block the issue.

Booker won’t budge because he wants bigger marijuana legal overhaul. Booker’s vision would erase past marijuana convictions for those trying to open a cannabis store and give regulation authority to the Food and Drug Administration.

Meanwhile, our state’s Congressional contingent doesn’t seem to be pushing the issue.

However, our state lawmakers can say they officially changed the word from “marijuana” to “cannabis” to help defeat systemic racism, but things like this tend to devalue legitimate stories about systemic racism.

And right now, when dealing with cannabis-related crime, there are far more urgent issues for the safety and lives of shoppers, workers, and store owners.

Hear Dori’s take on this issue with KIRO Newsradio reporter Hanna Scott in Hour 1 on March 15:

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Dori: Replacing word for ‘weed’ means more to state lawmakers than protecting human lives