Police searching for suspects in armed pot shop robbery

SEATTLE — Police are searching for at least four men, in their late teens to early 20s, who are suspected of robbing a West Seattle pot shop at gunpoint on July 19.

Seattle police said the suspects pulled guns on three employees and a customer at about 11:30 p.m. at Canna West Seattle, which is located in the 5400 block of California Avenue Southwest. The victims were reportedly told to get on the ground, according to police.

Police said the men stole $14,000 in marijuana, $2,500 in cash and took the victims’ cellphones before fleeing. They possibly fled in an older silver sedan.

Anyone who recognizes the men or has information about the robbery is asked to call the police department’s robbery unit at 206-684-5535 or call 911.

Tricia Topping, a manager at Canna West Seattle, said she lives down the street from work and received a call from one of the budtenders on the night of the robbery.

“The same time my budtender was calling me with one hand, he was calling the police with the other,” Topping said. “I threw my shoes on and got here when the police did. (The victims) all tried to help me clean, and I was like, ‘No. You need to go home.’ They were in a much better spot than I thought they would be. I would’ve been shaken up.”

One of the employees/victims of the robbery was back at work at the dispensary but did not feel comfortable going on camera due to safety concerns.

Topping said the robbers appeared to be young and unorganized, even demanding contradicting orders to the victims.

“You can’t be doing this with a gun out and telling people to do different things,” she said. “They spilled marijuana all the way upfront, all the way into the alley.”

Steven Smith, who works as a budtender at the dispensary, was working that night but left early. He also spoke on the frantic nature of the crime.

“It was one of the few times I went home early this year, and I guess you can say I was lucky,” Smith said. “It’s terrible. I’m seeing my friends and co-workers get to the ground with a gun in their face. … (The robbers were) telling one person to do something, like, ‘Get the money out of the register.’ Then the other person is like, ‘What are you doing? Get on the ground!’ Miscommunication like that? That’s life or death.”

Both Smith and Topping said robberies are an unfortunate possibility in the cannabis industry because the federal government still deems cannabis as an illegal narcotic.

“We’re a cash-only business, and everybody knows it because when they ask to pay with a credit card or Apple Pay or Cash App or whatever, your answer is, ‘Nope. We’re a cash-only business.’ Well, what’s that advertising? We’re a cash-only business. Then it makes it really, really hard. It’s the Wild West out here,” Topping said.

“When you work in this industry, you kind of always have it in the back of your head that this can happen,” Smith said. “So it’s not a matter of if. It’s when.”

“Having less money in the building by being able to use credits? That would be great,” Topping said. “You do have certain rules you have to follow. But sometimes, those rules make it really hard on us, and it makes it a more dangerous job. … Getting this stuff back — we already know is not going to happen. Until we are federally lifted, there will be no way these (stolen) things can be covered for us.”

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