KIRO NEWSRADIO

Pot shops remain high target for smash-and-grabs, armed robbery

Sep 22, 2023, 6:10 PM | Updated: Sep 25, 2023, 12:33 pm

smash-and-grabs...

Remnants of a car crashing into Seattle Cannabis Co. on Rainier Avenue South on Sept. 14, 2023 (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

From armed robberies to smash-and-grabs, pot shops are being relentlessly targeted.

Nearly every day, news surfaces about burglaries where suspected thieves use a car — often stolen — to smash into businesses, and pot shops have become favorite targets. It’s evidence those who involved are changing their M.O., according to Shea Hynes, general manager and co-founder of Lux Pot Shop. 

More on smash-and-grabs: Thieves drive stolen vehicle into Redmond pot shop; At least 30 armed pot shop robberies in 2023

“There’s been a wave of armed robberies that really hit a head in 2021 and into 2022,” he told KIRO Newsradio. Hynes is also a board member of the industry group Craft Cannabis Coalition.

Pot shops have been hot targets because they’re, typically, reliant on cash. It’s illegal under federal law to buy marijuana products with credit cards. Hynes said pot products are also usually easy to sell on the streets.

Cannabis retailers reported 29 armed, daytime robberies in January 2022 — including six in one day. There were 31 armed robberies in February 2022 and that may be an undercount, because the numbers aren’t from police reports, but the industry’s own (unofficial) tally known as Uncle Ike’s Robbery Tracker. (You can view the Google sheet here.) The tracker comes from Uncle Ike’s Pot Shop, which has five locations within the greater Seattle area.

Hynes said the stores reacted by adding security guards, restricting entry into shops and limiting the amount of cash on hand at any one time.

“As more and more retailers have taken steps to protect themselves during the day and locked their doors and hired armed security … it seems that the Kia boys have moved to stealing cars and ramming them through storefronts,” Hynes said, referring to the frequently stolen Kia and Hyundai cars often used in smash-and-grab crimes.

More on retail locations as cash-only businesses: State suggests cashless apps for cannabis stores to avoid robbery

Numbers from the tracker support that notion. All six crimes reported at pot shops in June were armed robberies. There have been seven incidents so far in September, including five noted in the tracker, — all smash-and-grabs.

Thieves don’t get a lot, but do cause a lot of damage

For all the destruction, Hynes said, the thieves aren’t getting away with much.

“When these crooks are running these cars through businesses, they’re causing tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage and, ultimately, they’re often getting away with less than a few hundred dollars’ worth of product,” Hynes said.

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The shop owners are left to clean up the damage and repair their business.

“It’s super unfortunate. These are small businesses. Many of them are family owned and operated,” Hynes added.

Whether it’s an armed robbery or a smash-and-grab, he said, the seemingly relentless crime targeting the industry is taking a toll.

“If you have a car drive through your storefront there’s going to be tens of thousands of dollars in damage and maybe insurance covers part of that, maybe not,” he said.

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“But when you have someone come in your store and stick guns in your employees’ faces, the damage that’s caused by that — the emotional toll to staff, the emotional toll to the folks who work in and around the business — there’s a real cost to that mentally and physically,” Hynes said.

There have been at least 263 armed robberies or burglaries at cannabis retailers in the Puget Sound region since the industry began tracking them in February 2017, including the two smash-and-grabs Friday that are expected to be added to the industry’s list.

Heather Bosch is an award-winning anchor and reporter on KIRO Newsradio. You can follow her on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email her here.

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