Washington State legalized weed in 2012 and things rolled out slowly but surely. Then things took a rough turni in 2020. Since then, crimes against cannabis has soared in Seattle, causing angst among business owners.
In the summer of 2022, which then Mayor Jenny Durbin refers to as “the summer of love“, the city stood by as protesters looted downtown and took over a major park in a popular neighborhood. The area was a declared a “free zone” and the Mayor allowed protesters to occupy the neighboring police headquarters. A majority of the city council declared the problem was the police and insisted on joining the Defund the Police campaign.
Shortly afterwards, the police chief quit followed by over 600 more officers three years later. Crime has skyrocketed and the downtown is struggling compared to other major cities. Another problem arising from the chaos? Crime against cannabis dispensaries have become very popular, massive smash and grabs in record numbers.
The trend is for groups of 2-6 to steal a Kia and drive it through the storefront. Knowing they have have plenty of time before police arrive, they loot products, hunt for cash and ride off in backup car. Sometimes they hit 2 or 3 dispensaries a night. The damage to the building, lost product and the length of repairs all hits the bottom line for small business owners.
“Washington marijuana shops experienced a dramatic uptick in robberies following the defund the police movement. Adult use weed shops have enjoyed the ability to utilize credit unions and armored car cash pickup since the inception of the industry. It is the anti police political movement that created today’s crisis. Record low police staffing and anti pursuit legislation have been the main causes of pot shop robberies. We’re soft targets for criminals.”
“The ability to accept credit cards would deter armed robberies because we wouldn’t have as much cash on hand. Thieves are going after product and really aren’t getting very much considering the massive costs of rebuilding smashed stores. The remains of the police department are doing what they can. A hindrance are prosecutors and judges who are relatucant to lock up the criminals” shares Ian Eisbenberg, the own of the Uncle Ike’s dispensaries.
The region is consumed with a fentanyl crisis. With four months left in 2023, fatalities so far this year from illicit fentanyl stood Thursday at 704, according to data from Seattle & King CountyPublic Health. It is just eight shy of 2022’s total of 712 fentanyl-involved overdose deaths. In June, a majority of the city council shocked the public by voting against enforcing a state drug law that would have allowed the city to prosecute people for using illegal drugs in public. Smash and grab crimes have only increased since.
City Council member Sara Nelson and Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison have been working to turn the tide of the crime spree, but they have been hamstrung by the existing City Council.
With the local paper, the Seattle Times saying cannabis dispensaries robberies hitting a record high, business owners and consumers are become frustrated.