All three men were shot during confirmed or suspected robberies of cannabis shops. Industry officials and state lawmakers say crimes against those businesses have increased in recent years due to the large amount of cash they are often required to keep on hand, since federal restrictions discourage banks from doing business with them.
Exact numbers are difficult to pin down, but in Washington state alone officials say there were more than 50 armed robberies of cannabis stores in the first two months of 2022 — a greater number than in all of 2020 or 2021.
“The time for congressional dithering on this issue needs to end, because people are dying,” Washington State Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti said in an interview. “Robbers go where the cash is.”
Now, this wave of robberies and deaths may shift the outlook on Capitol Hill for legislation that would make it easier for cannabis companies to open bank accounts and apply for small business loans. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) — the third-ranking Senate Democrat — recently stated that cannabis banking is a top priority for her in negotiations over a China competition bill. The American Bankers Association and all 50 state banking associations cited public safety concerns in a recent letter to Senate leaders urging its inclusion.
“There’s kind of growing momentum and interest,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore), a lead sponsor of the bill.