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DEA keeps pot on dangerous drug list, could hurt legal retailers in Washington

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SEATTLE -- The Drug Enforcement Administration now says it will not re-schedule marijuana federally, meaning it remains on the list of most dangerous drugs, including heroin.

That decision most likely means getting banking laws changed will continue to be an uphill battle. And legal pot supporters say without access to banks, pot shops and the neighborhood around them will be less safe.

Alison Holcomb helped create the law that legalized marijuana in Washington.

But despite the win with the state's voters, she remains frustrated with the failure of the feds to play along, and the danger she says that is creating.

“It is one of the most frustrating experiences that congress is deadlocked on this issue,” said Holcomb. “When it’s very simple, and public safety is at issue.”

Holcomb says the refusal of congress to change banking laws means most marijuana retailers remain cash only businesses. And that makes them a target for criminals.

That was the case earlier this week when workers at a pot retailer in Greenwood were robbed at gunpoint, forced to the ground by robbers who tore through the store searching for cash.

In Colorado, another state that legalized pot, a security guard working at a pot retailer was recently shot dead by robbers who are still on the run.

Holcomb says it’s not just the employees in the stores who are at risk.

“Nobody wants to see people walking by on the sidewalk, people driving by in their car, and have a robbery that starts inside of a store, and spill out on to the sidewalk and put people at risk,” said Holcomb.

Over the last three years, U.S. Congressman Denny Heck has proposed legislation that would allow banks to work with pot businesses without legal liability from the federal government. They haven’t passed.

It comes at a time when several states are set to vote on legalizing marijuana this November.

Holcomb says the tide is turning in the country when it comes to our attitudes on marijuana and it’s time for the feds to help out small businesses that remain at risk.

“People of the state have decided they want these kinds of businesses to be legal, we should not put up obstacles in the way of that happening.”