Pot shop owners see little benefit in proposed legislation
Mason County cannabis retailers don't have the near-daily stolen vehicle smash-and-grab burglaries that the Seattle area does, but local pot shop owners struggle with security concerns that a proposed state bill aims to address.
State Sen. Karen Kaiser's, D-Des Moines, substitute Senate bill 5259 will provide a tax break for retail cannabis store owners who install security upgrades.
The bill requires stores to spend at least $3,000 on "physical security improvements" such as bollards, security cameras, antitheft mirrors and locking display cases, according to the bill.
Cannabis products are assessed a 37% excise tax separate from general state and local sales taxes. Under the proposed bill, a pot shop owner who spends $3,000 on new security will get a 32% excise tax rate.
Local cannabis retailers have mixed feelings about the bill.
Tom Pruitt, the owner of TJ's Cannabis in Shelton, said he's "always appreciative" of rebates and tax breaks, but it doesn't address the underlying problem.
When thieves aren't punished, nothing will change, Pruitt said.
"It's a small Band-Aid on a bigger problem."
Pruitt said that while he'll happily use the extra money, it's not nearly enough.
TJ's has frequent burglary attempts, but perpetrators are rarely, if ever arrested, according to Pruitt. He said someone tried to back a car into the shop, and while they didn't succeed, he still had to pay thousands of dollars to repair the damage.
"If there's no punishment, crime continues to rise," Pruitt said.
Because of state and federal banking rules, retail cannabis shops rely on cash transactions. This makes them a target for burglaries, although the Cannabis Alliance, a business association for the cannabis industry, said many shops no longer keep large amounts of cash on site.
Chris Marshall, owner of North Bay Marijuana in Allyn, said her shop has also had numerous thefts and attempted burglaries, and the proposed bill will not solve the problem.
Spending $3,000 in security will not be hard, she said.
"We've all spent that much," Marshall said, speaking about neighboring cannabis stores.
Marshall said she spent $50,000 for security cameras, but catching burglars on camera is not the same as catching them and putting them in jail. Marshall said she has great respect for Mason County Sheriff Ryan Spurling, "but his hands are tied."
Echoing pot shop owner Puitt's stories, Marshall said the people who try to break into her store are rarely, if ever, arrested by police.
"They shine a spotlight on them, throw their drugs away and let them go," Marshall said.
Marshall, who also works as a dentist in Bremerton, said she has retrieved drugs from her garbage after such incidents so she can dispose of them properly. She said she's become so disheartened she's mostly stopped calling the police.
"I take care of my own problems," she said.
While she's jaded about law enforcement, Marshall only had good things to say about the state Liquor and Cannabis Board.
"The LCB has been the most helpful, kind and best agency that I have delt with. They listen and take each store owner seriously and have assigned an agent to every store that is there to help with anything," she said.
SB 5259, which was originally introduced last year but died in committee, was reintroduced Jan. 8.