Officials at the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WLCB) have responded to requests from numerous cannabis businesses to make a change in the way information about the businesses is shared with the public. After several cannabis businesses were recently burglarized, the WLCB has agreed to remove a map on its website showing where cannabis businesses are located, along with their addresses.
Even with this move, questions remain if there truly exists a direct link between the map being posted and the rash of burglaries, as well as a question of just how many cannabis businesses have been the victim of theft.
Last September, I wrote a piece about a sizable number of cannabis businesses in Washington that were being ripped off. That piece sourced an investigational article by Eric Scigliano, and as I wrote:
...Scigliano spoke with six commercial cannabis growers who were willing to go on the record about their combined nearly one dozen thefts. That’s just a small percentage of growers who are believed to have lost their market-ready, finished cannabis to thieves. Scigliano found that “thefts and robberies at licensed cannabis businesses in Seattle has so far turned up 54 (criminal case files) from 2016 to 2018.” Yikes. But it gets worse, as a Seattle police detective admitted that, in 2017, “Seattle Police had more than 65 reported burglaries to marijuana shops.” Mind you, these numbers don’t include grow-site ripoffs, just licensed retailers. Double yikes.
Since then, at least three more robberies took place in November of 2019, and as MJ Business Daily reports, the WLCB honored the requests from those impacted and others by removing the map with addresses for non-retail cannabis businesses. Per MJ Biz Daily, “We had a request by some of our stakeholders feeling that having those addresses posted on the website was an easy way for them to be found and perhaps targeted,” said a spokesperson for the WLCB.”
Others don’t believe that the removal of the map is going to have an impact on these thefts. Because of the high levels of transparency which Washington State requires from cannabis businesses, the same information available on the recently removed map is still available via a public records request, and the WLCB is required under state law to fulfill such requests. Granted, having a single webpage with all the information is faster and cheaper for those interested. Oregon growers I spoke with said they wouldn't be comfortable with a format that included their grow site addresses.
Jade Stefano, founder of Puffin Farms (a processing facility which was a victim of the November thefts), told MJ Business Daily that she would like to see the WLCB take further steps, and what she proposes makes sense.
“Among other requests, Stefano would like the state to allocate funds and task an LCB employee with tracking all reported crimes, such as robberies, against licensed cannabis facilities.
She would like to see the LCB communicate with law enforcement agencies around the state to attempt to quantify the extent of the problem and solve the crimes to protect licensed marijuana business owners.
“It’s not just a matter of livelihood,” Stefano said. “We actually feel like we could be the victim of a violent crime.”