Robberies of Pharmacies — Is the State Legislature Considering the Issue?

How much worse is the problem of Oxycontin and pharmacy robberies going to get?  There was an opinion piece in the Seattle Times earlier this month by Elizabeth M. Economou on the subject of pharmacy robberies.   The opinion piece was personal in that Elizabeth Economou’s husband is a pharmacist and was the victim of a robbery.   But she also called on the state legislature to increase the penalties for such pharmacy robberies.   The position is different from the arguments that I have made (here and here) insofar as I believe that the robberies are the result of the inherent addictive properties of Oxycontin, and that more needs to be done in regulating the manufacturing and marketing of such drugs.   But while I have seen the ravishes of addiction daily in my practice as a criminal defense attorney, pharmacists such as Economou’s husband see it from a different perspective, i.e. looking down the barrel of a gun.

A Seattle writer complains about the robbery of her pharmacist husband.

A Seattle writer complains about the robbery of her pharmacist husband.

Elizabeth Economou explains:  “instead of combat boots and olive-hued fatigues, my husband sports a crisp white lab coat while valiantly assuming his place on the front lines of the insidious war for prescription drugs.”   She writes that he returned from work early and her husband explained “I got held up — he wanted Oxycontin.”

It may seem like Ms. Economou is being melodramatic with her war analogy, but she is not.   Such stories are in the newspaper everyday.  The situation has gotten near the boiling point, and I am worried that any day gunfire will erupt in one of these incidents.  On November 19th, the Spokesman-Review reported in a story that a pharmacy employee tackled a man with a gun who tried to rob the store of its Oxycontin.  The employee was still trying to wrestle the gun away from the suspect when the police arrived.  The story did not make the front page of the Spokesman because such stories are growing commonplace.

After I read Elizabeth Economou’s suggestion that the legislature should increase the penalties for such robberies, I emailed an attorney I knew who works with the state legislature.   No such penalty increases were being considered.   There was no room in the budget.  And it is not because Economou’s was the only one to suggest the idea.  The elected prosecuting attorney for King County, Dan Satterberg made the same request.   The state is simply broke and can’t afford the cost of the increase prison sentences.

While it is debatable whether increased prison sentences would deter desperate addicts, one thing is sure.  The debate in the legislature would have provided an excellent opportunity to force our leaders to consider the growing problem.  Too many of our leaders are ignoring the issue of Oxycontin and pharmacy robberies.

2 Responses to “Robberies of Pharmacies — Is the State Legislature Considering the Issue?”

  • Steve it is time you stop blogging this and send an op ed to the Seattle Times where more people will read it. It is too important. Also you think that this is just a problem in Washington? Try sending the article to the NYTimes. I am sure that they would publish it. It is a national problem. America is a nation is soaked in pharmaceuticals. I just learned that HALF of all [the students I know in the U.S.] are on legally prescribed anti depressants, such as Prozac. I mean WTH is going on? In Italy the people I know on this stuff I can count on one hand.

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  • Karl:

    What is so complicated that needs to be considered? The legislature just needs to bight the bullet and build more jails. They need to act – but i agree they will not do anything until someone gets shot.

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Steve Graham is a criminal defense lawyer, and he splits his time between Spokane and Seattle, Washington. Visit his website by clicking:
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