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Monday, June 27, 2022

Measure To Establish Cannabis Safety Taskforce In King County Heads To Final Vote By County Council

King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn

In response to the recent slate of marijuana store robberies across the region, King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn’s legislation that would establish King County’s first Cannabis Safety Taskforce passed out of the Council’s Law, Justice, Health and Human Services (LJHHS) Committee on Tuesday, and now heads to the full council for a vote.

“Elected leaders need to take swift action now to protect our communities and businesses by preventing the targeting of the cannabis industry by criminals. I could not be more pleased that my colleagues passed this important legislation today,” Dunn said. “With this, we are one step closer to reducing the lawlessness and violence targeted toward these establishments and sending a clear message to the criminals responsible that these brazen robberies will not be tolerated.”

The passage of the legislation out of committee comes after a spate of high-profile shooting deaths in both King County and Pierce County, including two recent attempted robberies in Covington and Factoria that both resulted in the death of a perpetrator. According to the Washington CannaBusiness Association, roughly 70 robberies have been recorded at marijuana retailers across the state of Washington since the beginning of 2022. This uptick in robberies has been widely attributed to the publicity of cases and the fact that federal banking regulations have resulted in cannabis shops operating as all-cash businesses, making them a lucrative target.

“During and since my time in the state Legislature, I have been a staunch supporter of the legalization and regulation of the medicinal and recreational use of cannabis. However, the federal banking regulations that force businesses to operate as all-cash businesses have ended up endangering employees, customers and communities,” said Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles. “As such, this motion serves to explore how local jurisdictions can better support these businesses, while efforts to reform banking laws at the federal level remain underway.”

The King County Sheriff’s Office reports that deputies are continuing to work with the community to address security concerns and increase their presence, including both uniformed and plain clothes officers. This has included multiagency and multijurisdictional conversations, like with the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, to collaborate on finding ways to prevent this issue.

“We applaud today’s vote in our shared work with the King County Council to protect the safety of legal cannabis workers and the communities where regulated cannabis businesses operate,” said Vicki Christophersen, executive director of the Washington CannaBusiness Association. “Our members will continue to partner with King County officials as part of this coordinated response for addressing the recent spike in armed robberies targeting licensed cannabis businesses.”

According to officials, the Cannabis Safety Taskforce would bring together the King County Sheriff’s Office, the King County Prosecutor’s Office, members at all levels of the cannabis industry, and local community members. The goal of this group would be to identify resources necessary to aid law enforcement in the prevention of criminal activity targeting marijuana retailers; deepen interjurisdictional cooperation and data sharing; and coordinate emphasis patrols by law enforcement. The legislation also requests an analysis of how the roughly $4.6 million in marijuana tax revenue that was cut from the Sheriff’s Office funding in the 2021-22 biennial budget is being used. A report would be due to back to Council by August 31, 2022, before consideration of the 2023-24 biennial budget.

This legislation will be heard with a possible vote at the May 17 meeting of the King County Council.

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