Local

A burglary a week: 12th break-in at pot shop highlights ongoing criminal trend in Western Washington

WESTERN WASHINGTON — Burglaries at cannabis stores have now become commonplace in Western Washington, especially ones where a stolen vehicle is used to ram a building to get inside.

Here’s a list of every break-in at a marijuana dispensary 12 weeks into 2024:

KIRO 7 has reported on burglaries and armed robberies at marijuana dispensaries for years.

Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, while 24 states have legalized its recreational use. An additional 14 states allow marijuana for medical use only.

A top concern of dispensary owners has been an inability to access traditional banking, which means marijuana shops tend to have more cash on hand than other businesses.

Congress has repeatedly tried to pass the SAFER Banking Act (previously deemed the SAFE Banking Act), which would give marijuana dispensaries access to the traditional banking system used by other American businesses.

In 2022, KIRO 7 spoke with Kevin Heiderich, who feared the SAFE/SAFER Banking Act “will take too long.”

“This is something that the federal government has needed to work on for some time. It’s painfully evident to everyone,” he said. “There will still be negative consequences to the failed war on drugs and the lackadaisical approach to cannabis legalization in the state and federal level.”

Dispensary owners have also repeatedly asked lawmakers to increase consequences for those convicted of burglaries at marijuana shops.

“I think they need to change the laws,” Julieth Jreige, the owner of Cannazone Seattle, said on Mar. 19. “What’s happening is these minors (have) no consequences. So they just keep doing it. I think they got to come up with stronger laws that they need to pass with more consequences. Make them more accountable.”

“Something needs to be done. This is out of control,” Ryan Johnson, the owner of Marijuana Club 99, said on Jan. 15. “It’s happened to everybody. If they don’t change the legislation, it’s going to keep happening. These kids aren’t getting no time. They look like they’re under 18 and very young. Until they get significant jail time, they’re not going to stop doing what they’re doing.”

State lawmakers tried passing Senate Bill 6133 this past legislative session. SB 6133 would have imposed an additional year behind bars for people convicted of robbing or burglarizing marijuana dispensaries under specific conditions, including if someone used a car to damage or gain access to a shop.

SB 6133 unanimously passed the state senate, but was returned to the Senate Rules Committee for a third reading.

“So frustrating,” Jreige said about SB 6133. “It’s tough. Makes me want to get out of this industry. It’s getting harder and harder.”