PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A North Portland dispensary was the scene of a violent robbery where employees were shot at and hit with guns.
On July 11, security cameras in Paul Pedreira’s store caught footage of three people storming into the business with guns drawn, forcing employees to open the back door as the thieves stole “pounds” of marijuana and grabbed cash that wasn’t in a safe.
“Our employees are trained not to resist ever. Just give them whatever they want so no one gets hurt,” Pedreira said.
The video shows one of the suspects sticking a gun in an employee’s neck, who is trying to get a door open at the suspects’ request. The suspect punched the gun into the employee’s head and smacks the butt of the gun over the same employee’s head a few minutes later. Once inside the back room, the same suspect fires a bullet over the head of another employee.
“It’s a horrifying feeling to know I’m associated with a business that is a danger to my employees,” Pedreira said.
Pedreira feels like he is a business in an industry of targets for thieves. Because marijuana is federally illegal, banks do not work with marijuana dispensaries so they must deal only in cash.
Pedreira says he schedules frequent cash drops, has safes and takes other steps to minimize his risk, but this latest robbery was one of several thefts from his business.
“We are a target. Pot shops are definitely a target more than any other business,” he said.
On Thursday, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden was one of several lawmakers to introduce a bill to decriminalize marijuana federally and allow states to set their own policies on the matter.
“It’s practically people walking around with wheelbarrows full of cash and being magnets for crime,” Wyden said in an interview with KOIN 6 News.
Pedreira has been in this position before, seeing marijuana-related legislation introduced in Washington D.C. only to see it fail in the U.S. Senate. Safe-banking bills have been killed seven times by his count.
When pressed, Wyden thinks there’s more in this legislation that will actually be able to pass, such as grants for smaller law enforcement agencies to crack down on black market growing operations.
“By focusing in issues like public safety … and illegal grows, that’s the kind of issue that is important to Republicans,” Wyden said.
Pedreira also believes the violent robbery was a result of an overall increase in violent crime in Portland. He’s had his business broken into before, but never was violence involved, especially to the level seen earlier this month.
He says “the whole city is dangerous right now with gun crime” and, like many businesses in the city, has hired private security to protect his store.
“This is the kind of crazy situation we have in Portland. There are not enough police here,” he said, “It doesn’t seem like we have any leadership in the city right now.”