PORTLAND, Ore. -- The owner of a marijuana dispensary in Northeast Portland says federal banking rules are partly to blame for the takeover robbery at his store Sunday night.
Even though pot is legal in Oregon and Washington, banks will not accept money from marijuana businesses, meaning all transactions have to be done in cash. That cash is often stored in large amounts on site because it cannot be deposited in the bank.
Chris Schaaf said the robbers stole $1,300 in cash and nearly $1,000 worth of marijuana from his dispensary, Green Buds.
The take could have been considerably more, but a quick-thinking employee closed and locked the large door to the business safe as the robbers burst through the door.
“They actually came in through the front door. It’s the only way to get into the shop,” said Schaaf.
The door was not locked. Employees were bringing in the company’s sandwich board from outside and beginning to close up shop just before 9 p.m. Sunday.
Schaaf is frightened when he watches the security video showing the six robbers. Four held guns during the robbery.
“It’s terrifying. It turns my gut inside out to think about what could have happened in here,” he said.
Amy Margolis, a lawyer who advises many in the cannabis industry, says marijuana stores are indeed targets.
“It emphasizes the extreme need for the banking industry to open up to us,” she said.
She says security cameras mean little to crooks who are after piles of cash stored at marijuana stores.
“The cameras don't provide security. Security guards provide security,” she said.
Those cameras did catch most of the robbery team sweeping through the store and then quickly leaving. The moments terrified Tamir Bankhead, an employee who was inside the store.
“My heart did like jump out of my chest not once, not twice, maybe three times. But you just gotta remember to remain calm. So that's what we did. Remained calm, quiet,” she said.
Outside, police set up a perimeter, called in a spotting airplane and even deployed the Special Emergency Reaction Team, but the six robbers got away.
Green Buds plans to open for business again Tuesday morning.