University District vape shop owner fed up after multiple break-ins

Jan 3, 2024, 8:38 PM | Updated: Jan 4, 2024, 10:29 am

university district vape...

Exterior of Cloudz Vape after it was broken into. (Photo: James Lynch, KIRO Newsradio)

(Photo: James Lynch, KIRO Newsradio)

Cloudz Vape, located on University Way in Seattle’s University District, has been the victim of multiple robberies over the past few months, including a smash-and-grab with a stolen Kia vehicle.

Josh Young, owner of Cloudz Vape, told KIRO Newsradio he has lost approximately $5,000 in merchandise, while repairs to his storefront will cost more than $20,000. The subsequent loss of business is cutting into any profits.

More on area break-ins: Pot shops remain high target for smash-and-grabs, armed robbery

“When people attack small businesses like us, it’s not like you’re attacking a corporation. You’re literally taking someone’s food off their plate,” Young said. “We’re just doing enough to keep the lights on. It sucks, but it’s what we have to do.”

Young, an avid news and crime watcher, said he never felt like a victim, but after four break-ins at Cloudz Vape, he does. To make matters worse, he said he sees teenage criminals released faster from jail than his storefront can be repaired, fearing they can strike again.

Four teens — with ages ranging from 14 to 17 years old — were arrested late last month for a similar crime — stealing a Hyundai and using the vehicle to steal “a vast quantity of cannabis products,” according to Seattle Police (SPD). The four teens fled from police.

Three were released without charges and the fourth has not yet seen his case presented to King County prosecutors.

“It’s just not right,” Young said, commenting on the arrested teens. “There actually needs to be real punishment for real crimes and that’s a real crime.”

Casey McNerthney with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (KCPAO) told KIRO Newsradio three of the teens were released from jail after the court failed to find probable cause.

“The judge in the case ruled that police did not have probable cause to stop the car the teens were driving,” McNerthney said. “That doesn’t mean the case goes away. If police bring us more evidence, we will present the case to the court again.”

Robberies at retail marijuana stores are not formally tracked across the state by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, but Uncle Ike’s — a chain of cannabis dispensaries among other businesses — has kept an informal tally, self-reported by businesses and other reports since 2017, when the state changed the tax structure on cannabis goods.

This volume of crime specifically at cannabis stores has propelled business owners and legislatures to pine for reform through federal banking that would make the cash-dependent stores a less appealing target.

More from James Lynch: ‘Kia Boy’ charged with 5 counts of robbery, other felonies

“It makes absolutely no sense that legal businesses are being forced to operate entirely in cash, and it’s dangerous — and sometimes even fatal — for employees behind the register,” Washington Sen. Patty Murray said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.

At this point, banks and credit card companies are still reluctant to work with the industry, as cannabis remains illegal federally despite 18 different states legalizing it. With no backing from banks and credit card companies, cannabis businesses are heavily reliant on cash, making them attractive marks for robbers.

In the meantime, Young continues to work to secure his store and protect his business from thieves. To support him and his business, a GoFundMe has been created to help raise funds for repairs.

You can read more of James Lynch’s stories here. Follow James on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email him here.

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