Dear South Seattle Cop: How Does SE Seattle Support So Many Pot Shops?


“Ask South Seattle Cop” is a new column written by an anonymous South Precinct police officer and longtime Rainier Valley Post contributor. Send your questions for South Seattle Cop to editor@rainiervalleypost.com.

Greener Grad: How does Southeast Seattle support so many medical marijuana dispensaries? People say that South Seattle could not support a Trader Joe’s store, yet marijuana isn’t cheap. Are customers driving from all over the area to get pot, or do all the customers live in Southeast?

SSC: Yes, people do come here from outlying areas to buy weed. However, much of what is being purchased here is smoked here as well.

South Seattle probably could support a Trader Joe’s if it sold weed brownies…and was fortified like a forward base camp in Iraq.

In other words, due to the Law of Supply and Demand, Southeast Seattle probably could support a Trader Joe’s, IF it sold marijuana and marijuana-infused products. The problem is that pot shops are often targeted by violent, heavily armed criminals who employ takeover and home-invasion style robberies, making the security precautions needed for a weed-selling Trader Joe’s not only prohibitively expensive, but uninviting.

Also, we have so many weed-grow operations based in the residential areas of South Seattle that the weed shops don’t need to go far to obtain inventory. Perhaps its a matter of logistical convenience?

Unfortunately, we also have regular residential structure fires caused by the frequent bypassing and overloading of electrical systems.

That said, the explosion of these businesses is not limited to South Seattle. Take a walk down “The Ave” on the west side of the UW campus sometime. Go further into the commercial zones on main arterials in North Seattle and see how many of these places have sprouted up.

The dialogue that occurs here between friends, neighbors and engaged citizens is one of the features that makes your RVP such a valuable community resource. Your RVP does not necessarily endorse the opinions expressed. Photo/Rainier Valley Post

Editor’s note: This post has been amended for clarification since its original publication.

18 comments on “Dear South Seattle Cop: How Does SE Seattle Support So Many Pot Shops?

  1. I was so bummed to find out that another PCC was going into the neighborhood instead of a Trader Joe’s. SE Seattle can somehow support 2 PCC’s and a zillion dispensarys? Different clientele I suppose.

  2. I really disagree with SSC here. The Trader Joe’s comment is without any factual basis whatsoever and just offensive to the residents of South Seattle. The PCC needs no armored exterior nor drug-infused pastries to be successful, and there are many grocers who have found successful – and safe – homes in our area. Yes, we all know the issues with Othello’s Safeway. But that’s one flipping store. According to the OED’s 2009 “Retail Development Strategy for the Rainier Valley”, here are the following facts concerning the likelihood of a Trader Joe’s in the valley:

    “During the course of this assignment, a number of people asked us 
    about the possibility of attracting Trader Joe’s to Rainier Valley. We think it is unlikely ? but possible. 

    Our primary reasons for believing it is unlikely that Trader Joe’s 
    would  open a Rainier Valley are these:

    According to Scarborough Research,Trader Joe’s looks for potential 
    locations with a significant concentration of college educated 
    homeowners with an average age of 44 and median annual household 
    incomes of $64,000 and who are unlikely to have children at home. While Rainier Valley’s residents include some whose demographics meet this 
    general description, the size magnitude of this demographic cohort is 
    below that of the neighborhoods of most existing Trader Joe’s locations.”


  4. Robin, the Seward Park PCC is moving to the Columbia City location, which will be about 2.5 times the size of the Seard PCC. The Seward PCC building will be rented out to another small business once the move is complete.

    Jean, I agree that the support is here. But unfortunately large companies like TJ’s rely heavily on demographic data, and presently our averages are below their ideal. Plus, the larger PCC moving into Columbia City further diminishes the likelihood that a TJ’s would choose South Seattle.

  5. @Joy: My bad. SSC said we should clarify that statement before someone misunderstood, and I failed to do so in a timely fashion. I’m sorry for that and will post an update shortly. In the meantime, I will say that I think the comment refers to the fortification needed when holding/selling any sort of quantity of marijuana, which is a valuable commodity, and NOT a reference to the fortification needed when holding/selling groceries in the Rainier Valley.

  6. One thing I’ve noticed is that the pot shops in our neighborhood are a lot more obvious than in other areas. There is a shop near my workplace downtown, and one of my co-workers recently expressed surprise at how obvious she thought it was. But it only has an understated green sign with the name of the place – no pot leaves, no green cross, and totally frosted windows. I wonder why the shops in SE Seattle are so much more brazen.

  7. I appreciate the background from South Seattle Cop. I posted my original comment because friends from Redmond and Bellevue had never seen “MMJ” shops in their neighborhoods. I knew about that grow operation under a restaurant on MLK, but did not realize that pot is an extension of the locavore movement. Just as my neighbors have chickens and gardens to supply themselves with eggs and veggies, the pot smokers are getting their merchandise from the neighborhood rather than British Columbia or Mexico. Interesting. Here’s another question: Do the pot shoppers actually have prescriptions from real doctors? If everyone is so poor (and unattractive to Trader Joe’s!), where are the pot customers getting their money? I doubt that pot is covered by Medicaid.

  8. @SSC – So does the typical South Seattle shop employ the type of security precautions you think Trader Joe’s would need? I haven’t keep a log but if not it seems that they are violent crime magnets.

  9. I went to a meeting about Marijuana shops, and a retail store discussion broke out.

    @Joy — I don’t think SSC was writing about Trader Joe’s; he was opining on the reason for medical marijuana dispensaries. I think it is pretty obvious that Trader Joe’s has their own reasons (possibly incorrect) for deciding whether to locate a store here. Trader Joe’s was just a useful foil for the argument of “there isn’t X, but there sure are a lot of Y here.”

    My question is, since the passage of the marijuana initiative last year, would we expect the “security requirements” of pot shops to change?

    @Greener – as for the “who is buying this stuff” question, I am pretty sure there are all kinds of people making less than me (presumably, although I am not in 6 figures or anything) who have phones, cars, electronics, and clothes that I cannot afford. I stopped asking how a long time ago. If people want to spend their money on weed instead of chic niche-demographic groceries, who am I to argue (and I say that as someone whose wife is an avid Trader Joe’s shopper)?

  10. Tom T: Yes, the dispensaries and the grow operations do tend to attract violent criminals looking for a big payoff. The potential money involved provides substantial motivation as well as the ability to arm heavily. Rip-offs of weed grows and locations used for sales tend to be violent affairs, as sometimes do the internal politics of the businesses.

    Security precautions at these locations varies widely. There does not appear to be an “industry standard”.

    Mark B: Always addressing the pressing questions of our time!


  11. Hi SSC,
    Any insight you can share on the Tukwilka PD Command Van over at 38th and S Dakota last night?
    Tom T

  12. What has been the economical effect to B.C. since it is now legal here?
    Has their consumer spending noticebly decreased? Has Seattle’s increased?

    Has their violence decreased, and our’s increased?

    Why does it cost me $30.00 to buy a $20.00 bottle of Bombay Saphire?
    Save that for next week.J/K

    Cherry Slurpee?

  13. When alcohol was illegal there was all kinds of violence associated with its distribution. In my lifetime, in the region in which I was raised (here), I’ve never heard of anyone shooting up a liquor store to steal the alcohol. Why will it be different with weed? And that’s a serious question – I feel like I’m missing something obvious.

  14. When they steal the weed they don’t have to sell it for 30 cents on the dollar so there is a much better profit. Even if it is legal for adults, someonis still going to sell it on the street.

    Plus growing up in this region it was all government run stores with plenty of cameras, why risk robbing “The Man”.

    Now that it’s legal ,it’s easy to steal. I find Safeway bottle locks all the time. A security guy (on the liquor aisle) told me he was there because they were losing $1,000 a day in booze.

  15. Until recently we had state run liquor stores so robbing one would automatically bring more investigative/police resources to bear. So a target less desirable since the odds of being caught and the penalties were probably higher than a simple robbery. In other states, liquor stores were a high target of opportunity since they typically had a lot of cash on hand and cash has more value per oz than liquor so smart thieves took the cash. Finally, here’s an article on a study by professors at Indiana University that concluded that liquor stores increased crime in an area. http://www.livescience.com/9826-liquor-stores-violence.html

  16. Thanks for the responses, Mark B and Tom T. I figure that eventually we’ll have state-run marijuana stores (bad timing on selling off the liquor stores), and, if so, I’d expect the threat of violence will subside, at least somewhat. Two counterpoints: 1. I’d bet that alcohol lifted from grocery stores is for personal use, not for resale. Armed robbery of a medical marijuana place is a different story. 2. Any place that has cash on hand can be the target of a robbery.

    Products obtained through dangerous activity (like armed robbery) tend to warrant a HIGHER price tag, not a lower one. If the state handles this well, buying black market stuff will not be advantageous in any way. That isn’t to say that robberies would never occur, but it seems logical that they would decline because the payoff isn’t high enough for the risk. I’d expect to see more criminal activity focused on other drugs, which could open a few other cans of worms.

    The article on increase crime around places that sell liquor is interesting, but may not be relevant for a couple of reasons. First, it’s talking about convenience stores, which are notoriously highly targeted anyway. And second, alcohol tends to bring out violent behavior a lot more than weed does.

  17. @Kathy
    Counterpoint 1.
    I am not going to lie, I did buy a 1/2 gallon (would be about $60.00) off of some clown that happened to have my drink for $20.00.

    I felt bad, until I sliced the limes.

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