The Cannabis Alliance has been diligently working with Stopthedrugwar.org to organize across the country and get the message out to legislators that it is long past time to pass SAFE Banking. The effort has brought together a broad coalition of the cannabis industry and highlights the dire statistics of retail robberies here in Washington State to help congress understand the potential positive impact passing this legislation would have.
Coalition Focuses on Worker-Safety Challenges Faced by State-Legal Cannabis Stores Due to High Cash-Prevalence
Groups See “Moral Imperative” for Congress to Pass SAFE Banking This Year
Washington, DC: As the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs prepares to take up the long-awaited “SAFE Banking Act of 2023,” 35 organizations including both NGOs and trade associations have signed a letter to Congress that addresses the bill from a worker-safety perspective.
Among the organizations signing the letter to Congress is the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. UFCW, which represents 1.3 million workers in the US and Canada, was the first major union to represent workers in the state-legal cannabis industry. Another major signatory is Housing Works, an NYC-based nonprofit that fights AIDS and homelessness. Housing Works was awarded one of New York State’s nonprofit cannabis store licenses in 2022, and opened the first adult use cannabis store in the state last January. The letter was organized by StoptheDrugWar.org (a national drug policy reform nonprofit) and The Cannabis Alliance (representing cannabis businesses in Washington State).
The letter draws on findings from a surge of nearly 100 robberies of state-legal cannabis (marijuana) retail stores that affected 80 stores in Washington State between November 2021 and April 2022, and cost three lives. The letter notes that in 40% of the documented cases, cash alone was targeted by the robbers. The letter also noted that robberies targeting the back of a store – which in the great majority of cases sought cash from the store’s safe, and only sought cash – exhibited higher average aggression levels than robberies that only targeted the front of a store.
The letter called it “a moral imperative for Congress to enact some version of the SAFE Banking Act this year,” warning of “the demonstrated humanitarian toll that is possible if an event as occurred in Washington were to recur.” The organizations stated, “SAFE Banking is not the first effort to address the cannabis sector’s dangerous overreliance on cash, and it may not be the last that is needed. But the safety issues faced by the cannabis sector won’t be solved without it.”
Anthony Feliciano, Director of Advocacy for Housing Works, wrote “The Housing Works cannabis store is meaningful for our mission because every day our organization serves people who have been negatively impacted by the War on Drugs. But like the rest of the legal cannabis market, we must have a healthy regulated market, which includes reducing cash usage in stores and reducing the high fees and instabilities in cannabis banking. The SAFE Banking Act of 2023 takes steps that are needed to get us there. If may also spur reduced prices for consumers – a group that includes patients – because cannabis businesses may become more able to access business financing.”
Caitlein Ryan, Executive Director of The Cannabis Alliance, said “Our member businesses in Washington State have suffered the worst in the nation to date from cannabis store robberies. We know from hard experience just how serious a problem cannabis cash can be for our community – we don’t want it to happen again here, and we don’t want what happened to us to happen anywhere else.”
David Borden, Executive Director of StoptheDrugWar.org and author of the report<https://stopthedrugwar.org/delays> that analyzed the 2021-2022 robbery surge, added “As cash usage in our society has declined, people who steal for a living have become desperate for income. Those stores which have valuable merchandise to target, or which still have lots of cash around – or which like cannabis stores have both – are proportionally more at risk being targeted than was likely in the past. This means the problem isn’t going to just go away on its own. Worker safety is a matter of basic justice, and while we continue to work for broad drug policy reform, we feel an obligation to also help cannabis workers right now.”
Contact: David Borden, firstname.lastname@example.org, (202) 236-8620
Caitlein Ryan, email@example.com, (425) 314-9004