Washington leaders rally around push to change banking laws for pot shops amid rash of robberies

Apr 20, 2022, 1:13 PM
Pot shops, banking laws...
Sen. Patty Murray speaking during a Wednesday press conference. (Courtesy photo)
(Courtesy photo)

With Washington in the midst of an uptick in pot shop robberies, state leaders are rallying around a push to pass federal legislation they say will provide much-needed relief.

Pot shops call for more collaboration, police, and new banking rules

Recent incidents include one at a Tacoma dispensary where an employee was shot and killed during an armed robbery. Just days before that, an employee at a Covington pot shop was taken hostage, before the suspect was shot and killed by another store employee.

Because of federal regulations, cannabis sales in Washington are conducted with cash, which keeps large quantities on-hand at most pot shops, and in turn, makes them prime targets for robberies. That has local leaders pushing for a bill known as the SAFE Banking Act, which has been passed by the U.S. House Representatives upwards of six times despite repeatedly stalling out in the Senate.

In practice, it would allow banks to conduct financial transactions related to the sale of cannabis, which remains illegal at the federal level despite recreational marijuana being permitted in 18 states. The hope is that by allowing transactions to be conducted using debit and credit cards, shops will no longer have to carry as much physical currency.

“Washington businesses and their employees need action today,” Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson wrote in a joint op-ed for the Tacoma News Tribune published on Tuesday. “This has become a matter of life and death.”

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

Joining that push on Wednesday was Washington Sen. Patty Murry, who voiced her thoughts on the SAFE Banking Act during a press conference in Tukwila.

“It makes absolutely no sense that legal cannabis businesses are being forced to operate entirely in cash,” she said. “It’s dangerous — and sometimes even fatal — for the employees behind the register, but this situation is also completely preventable.”

This also comes after Washington Treasure Mike Pellicciotti met with the state’s Congressional delegation in late March to lay out a plan to finally push the SAFE Banking Act over the finish line, at the time intimating how he believed “there might be a path” in the months to come.

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Washington leaders rally around push to change banking laws for pot shops amid rash of robberies