Senate unanimously approves McCune’s pot-shop protection bill

Measure to address ‘crash-and-grab’ robberies at cannabis retailers moves to the House

Today the Senate voted 49-0 to approve state Sen. Jim McCune’s bill to increase the penalty for those who use a vehicle to rob a cannabis retailer. The measure’s passage in the Senate comes at a time when the state’s 1,000-plus cannabis shops are seeing a growing epidemic of costly and even deadly crimes.

According to McCune, the increase in violent and deadly crime is one of the more blatant signs of the escalating lawlessness in Washington.

“These cannabis shops are in all of our neighborhoods, and have really become a magnet for an unprecedented level of criminal activities,” said McCune, R-Graham, who serves on the Senate’s Law and Justice Committee.

“This bill goes straight at one of the trending criminal activities – ‘crash and grab’ robberies, where perpetrators use stolen vehicles to smash into storefronts, take what they can, and then quickly flee in another stolen car.”

Senate Bill 6133, McCune’s measure to address the growing public-safety concern, would increase penalties for those who use a car to cause damage or gain entry to a cannabis retailer to commit a crime. Should McCune’s bill become law and someone uses a car to do a smash-and-grab at a cannabis store, prosecutors could charge the suspect with either first-degree or second-degree robbery – a class A or class B felony, respectively – then also prove the new “special allegation” to seek an additional year of custody.

The measure would also assist the state Liquor and Cannabis Board in maintaining statistics on pot-shop break-ins by requiring cannabis retailers to report robberies to the board within 10 days, and tasking the Washington State Patrol with regularly consulting with the LCB’s chief enforcement officer.

“As we heard from those in the industry who testified on my bill, these types of robberies are happening on a weekly basis in Washington,” said McCune. “Some of the retailers have been hit five, seven, even eight times, to the point where it is almost becoming routine. Some no longer even bother to report the crimes.

“Reporting and tracking these events are essential to understanding just how big of a problem this is and reducing the effects of these crimes on cannabis businesses and the communities where they are found.”

He added, “Whether people like it or not, cannabis stores have been legal in Washington for nearly a decade, and the state is bringing in nearly half a billion dollars a year in tax revenue from this product. If the state is going to profit from having a legal cannabis industry, it should also do everything possible to protect workers, customers and the community from criminal activity at cannabis retailers.”

SB 6133 now heads to the House of Representatives for its consideration.