Pot shop smash-and-grabs: Legislators float solutions, but others say they don’t go far enough

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Pot shop owners across Washington are taking drastic measures to protect their businesses from smashandgrab thefts, turning their storefronts into fortresses with concrete barricades, metal bollards, and heavy-duty planters.

Lawmakers in Olympia are currently considering tougher penalties for these crimes, but some cannabis retailers argue Senate Bill 6133 doesn’t go far enough to curb the rash of ram-raids.

Diane Walter, owner of the ‘Have A Heart’ cannabis franchise, expressed her frustration with the lack of insurance coverage for stolen or damaged goods. She says within a short span of five weeks, their Bothell store was targeted by thieves five separate times.

“There’s nothing that comes back to us in terms of insurance,” complained Walter. “Anything that is stolen or damaged, we have to eat the entire cost of.”

The purpose of Senate Bill 6133 is for the state to start handling pot shop robberies like they do robberies at pharmacies. If passed into law, three key provisions would take effect:

  1. 12-month sentencing enhancement for anyone using a vehicle to break into a cannabis retailer
  2. Pot shops must report break-ins to the Washington State Liquor & Cannabis Board (LCB) within 10 days of the incident
  3. LCB must share findings with the Washington State Patrol “to discuss any evidence that indicates a pattern of, or coordinated effort by, a criminal enterprise”

Walter contends that, while she’s pleased by the bill’s intent, it lacks teeth. Specifically, in targeting what she believes is a group of young criminals terrorizing her businesses. She believes rings of juveniles are responsible for the majority of the stolen cars that crash through local storefronts.

“I haven’t seen a single adult be responsible for any of the crimes,” argued Walter. “This bill that is passing through right now is an excellent thing, but the most important thing right now that I know we need is having juveniles being part of that.”

RELATED: Senate bill asking for $770M for paraeducators, some say it’s focused on the wrong thing

According to Walter, back on Jan. 30, her business received a letter from the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office claiming an arrest was made. A juvenile who broke into her business was in police custody, but not for long.

“This juvenile is being tried, however, they say they don’t focus on punishment, they focus on rehabilitation,” said Walter.

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