The Bonney Lake City Council continues to discuss the pros and cons of allowing marijuana retail stores to set up shop in the city while the decision on zoning marijuana businesses nears the planned deadline.
The council plans to discuss the marijuana businesses ordinance on Dec. 2, and make a decision by Dec. 9.
During last weeks council workshop, Councilman Tom Watson presented to the council two cases of home robberies associated with marijuana retail stores in October and November.
“These occurrences are a deterrent,” said Watson. “To knowingly bring a business into our city that can have these repercussions is obviously unwise.”
On Oct. 30, two men robbed a 72-year-old woman who was holding on to cash from her son’s and grandson’s marijuana retail store.
On Nov. 18, another two men followed a dispensary owner home in Midland and robbed him. A friend of the owner chanced upon the robbers leaving the home in their car and drove after them. The friend was injured in a shootout down the street.
In both cases, Pierce County sheriff’s spokesperson Ed Troyer said that these robberies were not random, and that suspects knew there would be cash at these locations.
It is not currently known if the two robberies were connected.
Currently, most banks don’t take money from marijuana businesses. One bank that does work with marijuana businesses is O Bee Credit Union, which operates out of Thurston County.
O Bee Credit Union Senior Vice President Jennifer Roberts said the credit union’s pilot program for marijuana businesses in and around Thurston County arose out of safety concerns for marijuana business. The amount of cash businesses owners may have on-hand, Roberts said, makes them a target for thefts.
Besides the potential for crime, Watson said there are health risks for marijuana users as well, and cited an increase in marijuana-related calls to the Washington Poison Center.
According to the poison center, King County had the highest marijuana exposures in 2014, nearing 70 calls. Pierce County had the second most marijuana exposures, with almost 25 calls.
The poison center recorded 33 marijuana exposures last October, the highest amount in two years.
Additionally, 53 percent of all pediatric marijuana exposures reported in 2014 through October are for teens between the ages of 13 and 19.
Children between the ages of 1 and 3 make up a further 25 percent of all reported pediatric marijuana exposures for the same time period.
“Our call volume has increased over 120 percent regarding children exposed to marijuana and marijuana edibles, compared to 2013,” said Dr. Alexander Garrard, the clinical managing director of the Washington Poison Center. “This may be due to marijuana edibles being more available, and the lack of child-resistant packaging.”
According to the Poison Center, many marijuana-infused foods packages can resemble other well-known brands, which can cause confusion for children. Some examples of parody products include Keef Kat, 3 Rastateers, and Buddahfinger.
Watson said that the council is keeping Bonney Lake resident safety in mind while making this decision.
“My biggest problem with allowing zoning for marijuana retail stores is that there are more negative consequences than positive,” said Watson. “The cons outweigh the pros. It’s that simple.”