It was almost 10 p.m. in late February 2022 when four armed robbers, all in their late teens and early twenties, stormed the Craft Cannabis Marijuana Dispensary on Andresen Road, holding two shop employees at gunpoint and stealing about $1,600 in cash plus cannabis-related products.
According to police records, the employees were ordered to the ground and continually threatened throughout the robbery. And before running to their car and escaping into the night, the robbers made the employees stuff a trash bag with merchandise.
Sadly, this was not a lone occurrence. The shop at 8603 N.E. Andresen Road in Vancouver was robbed at gunpoint twice last year. Sticky’s Pot Shop at 9411 N.E. Highway 99 in Hazel Dell was also robbed at gunpoint last fall. And a cannabis retail employee in Tacoma was killed in a robbery in March 2022.
Robberies at cannabis shops in Clark County spiked last year, with four reported by the Vancouver Police Department in 2022. There was only one in 2021 and three in 2020.
The robberies were worse last year than in the first seven years of marijuana legalization, according to Craft Cannabis co-owner Adam Hamide. Though, he added that the incidents have seemed to calm down.
Statewide, there were at least 100 armed robberies at cannabis retail stores last year, according to a tracker run by Uncle Ike’s, as reported by the Seattle Times. The newspaper reported this being a decade high for the industry in Washington.
Marijuana was legalized in the state just over a decade ago. The city of Vancouver began allowing recreational marijuana retailers, producers and processors soon after, in 2014. Clark County began allowing these businesses in 2020.
The Craft Cannabis on Mill Plain was one of the first recreational cannabis shops in the city, opened in 2014. There are now 16 across the county.
Because pot is illegal nationally, cannabis retail stores run entirely on cash. National banks and credit card companies are hesitant to work with them.
Although legislation was introduced to keep federal regulators from punishing banks that work with licensed cannabis businesses, the SAFE Banking Act never passed the U.S. Senate. It has passed the U.S. House several times.
It’s believed such changes wouldn’t solve all the industry’s problems but would make marijuana dispensaries targeted less frequently.