With violent robberies at cannabis dispensaries on the rise across the country and the macabre fact that handguns and automatic weapons are easier to buy than beer, marijuana retail workers are sitting ducks.
Washington state alone has reported more than 80 armed robberies, with some ending in death, at pot shops so far this year - a greater number than in all of 2020 or 2021, according to the Washington CannaBusiness Association.
And Washington is not alone. The cannabis dispensary crime wave is spreading to other states where marijuana is legally sold.
Industry leaders concur that the lack of safe banking access for the country’s thousands of cannabis dispensaries is costing lives.
"No one should have to go to work fearing for their lives," said Steve Hawkins president of the U.S. Cannabis Council per Fox News. "Those individuals should not be worried if they will be going home to loved ones at the end of the day."
Touch Weed? No Banks For You
It's not that the banks don't want to accommodate the billions weed generates annually - up to $25 billion - or that they don't like the nearly a half-million people the industry employs. Alas, they cannot do either because cannabis is still a federally illegal substance.
Hence, cannabis dispensaries are forced to operate in all-cash. Most literally have to stash their day’s earnings on-site and then hopefully get it to a safe place before someone with a gun walks in.
What’s To Be Done? The S.A.F.E. Banking Act Is Essential But It’s Stalled
The SAFE Banking Act, which would give cannabis companies normalized access to banking and financial services and allow dispensaries to accept credit cards, has passed in the U.S. House six times but has never made it to the upper chamber. Senators from both parties support a plan to include it in a separate bill – the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act. Some, like Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), say the SAFE Act has enough votes among at least 10 Republican co-sponsors and close to 50 Democrats to pass as a standalone bill.
Hawkins, of the Cannabis Council, told The Hill last month that advocates “really have an open playing field to push for passage” of the SAFE Banking Act as broader legalization reforms - led by Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY), Sens. Cory Booker (NJ) and Ron Wyden (OR) - are on hold until August.
“Clearly it’s not aimed for passage this Congress if it’s coming out in August,” Hawkins said. “Even if it comes out sooner than that, it’s too late in the calendar year.”
Meanwhile…marijuana retail workers continue to be sitting ducks.
Photo: Surveillance camera at Lynnwood Dispensary
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