In a string of robberies, several cannabis retail shops have reported various tactics criminals have been using to get into their businesses in recent months. As these get worse, lawmakers are cranking up the punishments for people involved in such violent crimes.
A bill proposal in Washington would tack on an extra year of jail time for people convicted of robbing a cannabis store under certain conditions.
Senate Bill 6133 would allow prosecutors in the state to seek a 12-month sentence enhancement if someone convicted of robbing a cannabis store is part of a group, or if a person uses a vehicle to smash into the cannabis store, which is happening very frequently in Washington and other states, particularly on the West Coast.
“We need to do something to control the problem,” state Sen. Jim McCune (R-Graham), the bill’s sponsor, said during the committee hearing. If criminals are aware of increased penalties, perhaps that will be enough to dissuade them from participating in the crimes.
“I believe that the tougher the penalty, the less the crime,” said McCune. “Protecting the citizens and the pot shop owners and their employees, and overall slow down crime. Now, that’s what the bill is all about.”
Under the bill, a “special allegation” with increased penalties can be made if “A cannabis retail outlet, licensed under chapter 69.50 RCW, and the defendant committed the robbery by using a vehicle to damage or gain access to the retail outlet; or A cannabis retail outlet, licensed under chapter 69.50 RCW, and the defendant committed the robbery in concert with another individual or individuals; the court shall make a finding of fact of the special allegation, or if a jury is had, the jury shall, if it finds the defendant guilty, also find a special verdict as to the special allegation.”
The proposal received a public hearing on Jan. 29 before the state Senate Law & Justice committee. SB 6133 passed through the Senate Law & Justice Committee on Tuesday and now heads to the Rules Committee before it can be heard by the full Senate.
High Times reported on the rise of smash-and-grab robberies taking place in not only Washington, but in Los Angeles and Oakland, California, among other places. Sometimes the criminals opt for a forklift to smash into a cannabis store—basically anything they can get their hands on that can smash through locked doors and barriers. The cash-only status of cannabis businesses inherently makes them a prime target for criminals.
Washington in particular has seen an uptick in smash-and-grab style robberies of cannabis stores.
In October 2022 a surveillance video from police shows a crew conducting a well-organized armed robbery of a cannabis shop in Tacoma. A car crashed into a Seattle cannabis store in September 2023, for instance, representing another smash-and-grab burglary. The video surveillance from inside the store shows a car ramming into the store full-speed, followed by hooded people running inside and grabbing cannabis and merchandise off the shelves.
KING 5 reports that most recently, a stolen KIA was used to crash into a Shoreline cannabis store on Jan. 2. A group of teens and young adults call themselves the “KIA Boyz” because of how often the cars are used in robberies in the area.
According to a lawsuit filed against KIA by Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison, the explosion of stealing KIAs and Hyundais started as a TikTok challenge with videos of joyrides. In Seattle from 2021-2022, thefts of KIA vehicles increased by 503%.
KING 5 reports that another cannabis store called the Green Lady dispensary in Lynnwood was robbed in the same manner.
“They came through the rear side of the building in February of last year, so February 2023. And then the second hit was through the front, and that was in November of 2023,” Layla Jordan, the executive assistant at Green Lady, told KING 5.
Jordan’s Lynnwood dispensary was targeted twice over the past year, and one of the dispensary chain’s Olympia locations was also hit twice over the past year. Jordan said they have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars dealing with the aftermath of these robberies.
“Anytime my phone goes off at 3 a.m., I’m like, ‘Oh no, did we get hit again?’” said Jordan.
“In theory, it would help, but the people who are performing these acts, I don’t think they have any regard for the law,” said Jordan. “So, I’m not sure if it’ll make a difference. But it’s still, it’s a nice thought.”
Senate Bill 6133 is one approach to convincing criminals that these crimes are simply not worth the risk.
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