June 17 2021
10:18 PM
banner-icon1 banner-icon2 banner-icon3

Local Oregon News

Local News Index

Previous story For Nearly a Year, Teenagers Have Been Robbing Portland Dispensaries. Then Somebody Shot a Budtender. Next story

Story by Tess Riski - Story Source
Published on Tuesday March 9, 2021 - 12:50 AM
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
Michael Arthur worried he might die on the job.

For almost two years, the 44-year-old father worked as a clerk at Cured Green, a cannabis dispensary tucked in an alleyway behind a small grocery store and teriyaki shop along North Lombard Street.

Arthur's girlfriend, Chiara Ryder, says he grew increasingly fearful of a robbery. Around November, Ryder says, Arthur told her he had seen four young men scoping out the shop late at night.

He ended the conversation with a warning: If I wind up dead, these are the guys who did it.

"It raised the hairs on the back of Michael's neck. It made him afraid for his life," Ryder says. "It wasn't his words. It was the look on his face."

On Dec. 14, Arthur was shot to death in a robbery at Cured Green that scored a few jars of weed and a tip jar containing less than $20.

His death horrified the cannabis industry. It shouldn't have been a surprise.

People who've watched Portland's weed crime spree say the fatal shooting was only a matter of time.

By the time Arthur was killed, Portland cannabis shops had already been robbed, burglarized or looted 95 times in 10 months, according to data from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

That number is now up to 103, with three armed robberies so far in 2021.

By contrast, Portland liquor stores, a classic target for crime, reported just 22 burglaries and no robberies over the same time period.

In one year, Portland-area cannabis shops reported more than half a million dollars stolen—$583,000 in cash and products, gone.

Since the pandemic descended in March, weed stores in Portland have been plundered at a rate of about two per week. It's the largest crime spree targeting one kind of business in Portland memory, and carries echoes of drugstore robberies in the 1980s.

"We specifically said, 'Somebody's gonna get killed,'" says Mike Getlin, who owns a cannabis farm and founded the Oregon Industry Progress Association, a lobbying group. "I think it's going to happen again."

During a three-day period in late May and early June, 20 shops reported getting hit. In August, one shop had its ATM lugged away. In December, a weed delivery truck driver was robbed at gunpoint. One shop owner was cleaning up broken glass from a break-in earlier that night when a second gang wandered by—and burglarized his shop.

At least four budtenders have reported being zip-tied during robberies.

"I've heard of employers saying their employees are requesting that the shops don't open," says Jesse Bontecou, co-director of the Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association (ORCA). "If someone comes in and puts a gun into your face, it is a terrifying thing."

Chains are hit just as often as mom-and-pop shops. When WW called the Mr. Nice Guy dispensary in East Portland, one of four in the metro area, and asked if it was the location that had been burglarized, an employee replied drolly.

"You could be calling all of our locations," the employee said, "and you'd be calling the right one."