City leaders are lobbying Congress to loosen pot store banking laws amid recent spate of armed robberies

Pot shops across Washington continue to suffer from the growing trend of armed robbery, caused by the fact that under federal law they can only use cash. In 2022 alone, there were three murders and 80 robberies in Washington State.

On Tuesday, Seattle city leaders called on Congress to pass the SAFE Banking Act, a bill that would allow cannabis companies to access traditional banking services.

“Every small business deserves security and stability and every employee deserves to be safe in their workplace. Congress must act urgently to pass the SAFE Banking Act and give cannabis retail stores a sensible access to financial tools to help keep their workers, customers and businesses safe,” Mayor Bruce Harrell wrote in a press release.

Cannabis stores currently do not allow credit payments, so the State Liquor and Cannabis Board is instead encouraging cashless phone apps for customer pot payments.

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Scott DeKay owns Savage THC in Clayton. He tells Gee and Ursula of KIRO Newsradio that he doesn’t feel safe using apps recommended by the State Liquor and Cannabis Board because they’re smaller, lesser-known companies. He’s afraid they’ll be in trouble for finding a loophole to get around federal government rules.

He says he doesn’t have the funds for a full-time armed security guard, and his estimate is that at least half the pot shops are in the same boat. Instead, he undertakes other security measures to deter would-be criminals and plans to defend his store in case of theft. They’ve installed a chain-link fence, bulletproof glass, and even have dogs on the property in hopes of intimidating would-be thieves.

DeKay says the only solution is to be able to use banks and cards like any other type of retail business in the state. He would like to see a sort of “Bank of Washington” that would allow businesses to not have to cross state lines when it comes to banking services.

KIRO Newsradio reached out to two of the suggested apps, Aeropay and CanPay, for an interview.

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.