UPDATED 11-20, 7:30 p.m. — The manager of a Seattle marijuana shop that was robbed by a crew of at least four armed thugs told a local news agency she would like to see state law changed to allow guns inside retail pot stores, but there may be a provision in the law that exempts proprietors and employees, and Liberty Park Press will try to get an answer.
Under federal law, marijuana is still a controlled substance. Under state law, pot shops are gun-free-zones because they’re off-limits to anyone under age 21. Except for armed robbers, and, it appears from a careful reading of the statute, “the proprietor of the premises or his or her employees while engaged in their employment.”
The Star 21 pot shop in south Seattle was held up earlier this week near closing time. According to KOMO News, the local ABC affiliate, the robbers “entered with guns drawn” and ordered employees to “get down.” They took cash and “product.”
A brief report from KIRO News, the Seattle-area CBS affiliate, said “at least one of the suspects fired multiple shots inside the store, but no one was hurt.”
But manager Tawnya Jenkins told a reporter she hopes the robbery will bring a change in state law about having guns in “age-restricted areas like bars, beer gardens, etc.” That includes marijuana shops, according to the state Liquor and Cannabis Board and state statute, but that prohibition may apply only to customers, not employees, if one reads Section 10 of the state statute. That section reads, in its entirety, “Subsection (1)(d) of this section does not apply to the proprietor of the premises or his or her employees while engaged in their employment.”
This is not the first time a change in the law has been sought. In 2017, Spokane-area pot shop employees also wanted to carry guns and a petition effort was launched, according to KREM News. The law was last amended in 2018.
Recreational marijuana use was legalized by citizen initiative in 2012, at which time it was reported that pot users still could not have firearms or ammunition because of the federal statute.
In November 2017, KREM interviewed Kayla Cavasier, then a pot shop employee, who noted that some customers “can be downright crazy,” according to the story. She worked at a store where an employee had recently been shot, and not long after a Cheney pot shop employee, Cameron Smith, had been murdered by Donovan Culps. Smith had refused to sell pot to Culps, who kidnapped him, shot him in the head and dumped his body in Airway Heights, as reported at the time by the Spokane Spokesman-Review.
Culps also reportedly admitted to KHQ that he killed another man, Neil Cloud, in Yakima County a month before the Cheney slaying, the newspaper account said.
The Star 21 robbery suspects apparently fled the scene in a getaway car. Police K-9 team responded to the scene but was unable to get a scent.
Store manager Jenkins told KOMO she is aware of the law, which makes it “illegal to arm ourselves and protect ourselves in a business like this. And I think laws like that should change.”
Liberty Park Press reached out to Jenkins but she did not immediately respond. The language in Section 10 could provide the protection Jenkins is seeking.
According to KIRO, Star 21 was robbed in September 2017. An employee was shot in the shoulder during that holdup.
(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story said state law does not allow any firearms in areas of stores off-limits to anyone under age 21.)