Medical Marijuana Patients are Target For Burglaries - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Medical Marijuana Patients are Target For Burglaries

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KENNEWICK, Wash. - There's a growing trend in Kennewick crime: home invasion robberies of medical marijuana patients. There are an estimated 100,000 medical marijuana patients in Washington and many of them grow their medicine themselves. Because of that, they're often targeted by thieves.

Since medical marijuana was legalized in 2008, more patients are reporting their pot's been stolen. Legally, patients or their service providers (the people who grow for patients who can't) aren't allowed to sell the product, trade it or even give it away. But police said they know that happens anyway. The problem is, criminals know that, too.

"These people become victims, become targets of crimes themselves because why spend the time growing it when you can break into somebody's house and steal it," said Kennewick Police Sergeant Ken Lattin.

Under state law, medical marijuana patients can have up to 15 plants and up to 24 ounces of 'useable' cannabis. At Hippies, owner Tim Adams said lots of his customers are patients.

"I think it's sad that the medical marijuana patients are targeted because they are ill and they're growing for a reason," Adams said.

But some of these growers are prepared.

"I know there's a lot of medical marijuana patients that are out there carrying weapons," Adams said.

"There are times when weapons are involved. Just recently in the past week a weapon was involved. Nobody was injured but a weapon was discharged," Lattin said.

Back in 2011 a young Kennewick man was killed in an apparent pot burglary. 20-year-old Tyler Stock was shot after trying to break into a house on North Buntin Street.

Kennewick Police said these crimes are all too common and now that pot is legal for recreational use, state regulations can't come soon enough.

"By December of this year the state liquor control board is required to have those things in place which should, we hope, in theory, alleviate some of these issues," Lattin said.

In Kennewick alone, there were nine of these cases in 2011, eight of them in 2012 and already one this year. Lattin said that's why the city was able to put a moratorium on collective grow gardens.