WASHINGTON - The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) announced on Friday that it has contracted with a private security team to provide free, on-site security assessments for individual pot shops.
The move comes after pot shops in western Washington have seen a dramatic increase in armed robberies, some of them turning deadly.
At the end of March, over 50 pot shop robberies were reported. Uncle Ike's, which has several pot shop locations across Puget Sound, has been keeping its own record of pot shop robberies since 2017.
As of April 28, their last robbery entry, they reported 84 armed robberies for the year so far.
"We’re very, very happy the LCB is recognizing the problem. We don’t know what the training will be, but hopefully there will be some valuable tips to keep our staff and customers safer," said Ian Eisenberg, owner of Uncle Ike's.
Under federal law, pot shops are cash-only retailers. Store owners and advocates say having that much cash on hand makes pot shops targets.
"This is absolutely in response to [the robberies]," said Brian Smith, spokesperson for LCB. "They operate primarily in cash. That’s not true of any other business in the State of Washington, which potentially makes them a target. We think that the rash of violent robberies that have happened in 2022 are linked to that."
Legislation meant to offer relief stalled at the federal level.
The security assessment offered will take a look at possible physical security and crime prevention methods in approximately 180 pot shops in Pierce, King and Snohomish Counties.
LCB is working with Tacoma-based company Setracon, Inc. which also works with Sound Transit and Community Transit.
Among the services security company Setracon will provide include:
- Working with retailers to assess potential security risks
- Review criminal threats facing the retailer
- Evaluate and document present mitigations and suggest solutions for improvement
- Providing retailers with a report of findings
"So that that retailer can stay in business, so that they can do what they do best, and we can help them to have that sense of security and safety in a real fashion," said Jeffrey Slotnick, President of Setracon.
Co-owner of Hashtag Cannabis Logan Bowers said their Redmond location was the target of an armed Robbery back in March, and it's still an open case.
"What I hope to see them follow up with from this is more of an effort to track all of these crimes and coordinate the law enforcement and police departments from across the region to actually catch the perpetrators and criminals," said Bowers.
A sign-up process for shops interested in participating in the security assessment will be made available soon.