“The federal banking regulations that force businesses to operate as all-cash businesses have ended up endangering employees, customers and communities.”

By Spencer Pauley, The Center Square

King County Council has voted for a cannabis safety taskforce to aid in the prevention of crime targeting marijuana businesses.

The legislation was sponsored by King County Councilmembers Reagan Dunn and Jeanne Kohl-Welles and passed out of the King County Council on Tuesday.

Approximately 70 robberies have been recorded at cannabis retailers across the state of Washington since the beginning of 2022, according to the Washington Cannabusiness Association (WACA).

“A dedicated cannabis safety taskforce will be able to focus on keeping our local communities safe from the pattern of armed robberies targeting cannabis stores and manufacturers across the region,” Dunn said in a statement. “This legislation sends a strong message that King County plans to hold those committing these crimes responsible for their actions.”

The high rate of crime on cannabis stores has been widely attributed to federal banking regulations on cannabis sales, which has resulted in cannabis shops operating as cash-only businesses. This makes dispensaries and other cannabis businesses tempting targets for robberies.

“The federal banking regulations that force businesses to operate as all-cash businesses have ended up endangering employees, customers and communities,” Kohl-Welles said. “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 proposed cannabis safety taskforce would be formed by the King County Sheriff’s Office, the King County Prosecutor’s Office, members of the cannabis industry and local community members.

The taskforce’s goal is 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,” according to King County’s statement.

​​“King County is leading the way in our state by adopting a coordinated response among law enforcement, prosecutors, regulated cannabis businesses and the broader community for responding to the current public safety crisis,” WACA Executive Director Vicki Christophersen said.

As part of the legislation, there is also a motion to analyze how the approximate $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. This analysis is due to the King County Council by August 31, 2022.

King County Executive Dow Constantine had yet to sign the legislation or indicate his intention to do so as of Wednesday.

This story was first published by The Center Square.

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