Possible links investigated in cannabis thefts
PORT ANGELES – Investigators are exploring possible links between two armed robberies at cannabis stores in the Port Angeles area and more than 31 other retail pot robberies in Western Washington and Puget Sound since Nov. 1 .
Brian King, assistant chief of Clallam County Criminal Police, said law enforcement has stepped up patrols of marijuana outlets in Clallam County since the armed raids at Muffy’s Pot Shop on January 15 in east of Port Angeles and at Floyd’s Cannabis on Dec. 17 west of downtown Port Angeles. , both on US Highway 101. Stores are 2 miles apart.
Links between the 33 robberies include four or more hooded, masked and handgun-wielding intruders entering stores late at night, some close to closing time and demanding money, sometimes taking products and running away, King said.
“We haven’t had anything like it here in Jefferson County,” the sheriff’s office detective sergeant said. Brett Anglin said Monday.
He said three Jefferson County marijuana stores were robbed — broken into and robbed — about two or more years ago.
Members of the Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Task Force, which includes the Clallam and Jefferson County Sheriff’s Offices and the Port Angeles and Sequim Police Departments, will meet today “to propose other ideas regarding an investigative plan based on this information that continues to develop,” he said.
“We have scheduled additional meetings.”
In addition to enhanced patrols, “we’ve also incorporated a few different patrol strategies,” King said.
“We have some leads we want to follow this week and our plan is to do that.”
Aaron Pickus, spokesman for the Washington Canabusiness Association, a statewide cannabis trade group, said Monday that two stores and a marijuana processor were robbed over the weekend, two in King County and one in Snohomish County.
“I’m not convinced it’s limited to one type of area,” he said.
“We usually see it across the state. I had heard of at least one in Port Angeles,” Pickus said, referring to the Muffy’s Pot Shop robbery.
The Tacoma News Tribune recently cited several commercial marijuana thefts in Thurston and Whatcom counties.
Pot shop owners in Washington state can only conduct cash transactions, putting them at a disadvantage compared to other retailers when selling their product, which cannot be purchased with a credit card, a said Pickus.
“Cash is one of the unique things on-site compared to other retail businesses, whether it’s in a cash register or a safe,” he said.
Credit cards are regulated by the federal government, which has banned the use, sale, and possession of marijuana.
“While it’s legal in the state, it’s still illegal at the federal level, which obviously creates unique challenges for cannabis licensees that other businesses don’t have to deal with,” Pickus said. .
Credit unions are allowed to offer banking services to marijuana businesses, he said. Deposits are protected by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund.
Federal legislation allowing cannabis companies to use the federal banking system, which is provided by the federal government, was approved for the sixth time on Friday as part of the SAFE Banking Act by the United States House of Representatives. U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer, a Democrat from Gig Harbor who represents Washington’s 6th congressional district, which includes the northern Olympic Peninsula, voted yes.
The legislation faces a meteoric rise in the Senate, which has never taken up the measure.
“Our entire federal delegation supports it,” Pickus said.
The Washington State Alcohol and Cannabis Council released a bulletin on retail cannabis safety on January 27 in light of recent crimes against retailers.
“While thefts are not exclusive to cannabis retailers, there are inherent risks in cash-only businesses that may make them targets,” according to the bulletin (www.lcb.wa.gov).
Suggestions included posting prominent signs that CCTV – which is required – is in use, keeping cash in the cash register to a minimum and hiring armed security.
Pickus said employees must remember to never compromise the security of assets.
King said a regional task force could be formed to investigate the thefts in western Washington and Puget Sound.
If the rate of armed robbery continues at its current rate, “it is very likely that a task force could be developed,” he said.
Lead writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].