Disappointing news has been announced from Denver, CO where a city police sting resulted in seven recreational dispensaries being cited for selling cannabis to persons under the legal age of 21.
A total of 30 dispensaries were investigated in the operation. Seven people received tickets and a class 1 misdemeanor charge for selling to a person younger than 21. Violating dispensaries could face steep penalties, including license suspensions and heavy fines.
All previous sting operations in Denver resulted in zero violations. However, recent violations in Aspen and Washington state have raised some eyebrows toward the industry.
According to Lewis Koski of the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division, these violations will reduce the industry’s overall statewide compliance rate to 92%.
“It may be a little too soon to know exactly why that is but what that tells us is that we need to continue to partner with the regulated industry to make sure that they’re really clear,” Koski said.
While some cannabis industry organizations have been critical of the violations, others feel the industry is operating as expected.
Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project stated,
“Really this is how the system’s intended to work to make sure that people are asking for ID, and, in most cases, it keeps them out and to punishes those who fail to do that,”
“Prior to the establishment of these stores and this system – every person selling marijuana failed to ask for ID. So what we’re seeing now is a massive improvement.”
According to Koski, compliance rates for the alcohol and tobacco industries average around 91 or 92 percent, practically the same as cannabis.
The seven locations involved in the sting were:
The Herbal Cure 985 S. Logan St.
LaContes Clone Bar 105 E. 7th Ave.
The Healing House 2383 S. Downing St.
Herbs 4 You 20 E. 9th Ave.
Mile High Green Cross 852 N. Broadway St.
Higher Expectations 1332 S. Cherokee St.
Pure Medical Dispensary 505 W. 40th Ave.
For the first time since legalization was enacted, recreational marijuana dispensaries in Washington are experiencing what it is like to be under the watchful eye of the state’s Liquor Control Board (LCB). The LCB is currently conducting compliance checks by sending people under the legal age of 21 into recreational dispensaries to attempt to make a purchase.
Based on the numbers, roughly 82 percent of the recreational stores checked by the LCB did not sell to the underage buyers. This number falls within the same range as the compliance checks that the organization conducts at liquor stores. Between 85 and 92 percent of liquor vendors usually pass the same type of age compliance test.
Only four of the 22 stores were cited for selling to an underage customer. All four shops will be issued a citation, and the names of all employees responsible for the illegal sale have been sent to the county prosecutors. These people could face felony charges.
The four dispensaries were:
- Mary Mart
- Emerald Leaves
- Green City Collective
- Purple Haze
Just because the person checking identification at the time of the test was having a bad day, however, does not mean that the store usually operates outside of the law. Identification was checked in all cases, but the shop employees, reportedly, either miscalculated birthdays or misread a vertical ID.
The LCB seems to understand that this industry will have growing pains. Brian Smith, a spokesman for the LCB, reported:
“We recognize this is a new industry. Any news of this will spike compliance — that’s how compliance checks work.”
Damien McDivitt, owner of Mary Mart, one of the stores caught selling to an underage person reported:
“We take this very seriously. It is our livelihood and our license on the line.”
For failing the first compliance check, stores could face up to 10-days of suspension or a $2,500 fine. A second compliance fail in the future could result in a temporary suspension of the store’s license to operate, and eventually could lead to a complete revocation of the license.
The publicity behind this round of compliance checks will likely inspire stores to remove the human error element from checking customer identification. McDivitt explained that he plans to switch to using an electronic identification scanner at Mary Mart, in an effort to avoid this all together in the future:
“It scans and verifies. It helps us do math. You run the person’s form of ID through it, it spits out their age and if it is a valid ID or if it is an expired license.”
Although only 22 stores throughout Skagit, Pierce, Kitsap, Snohomish and Cowlitz counties have participated so far, every single one of the 150 shops throughout the Evergreen State will have been tested by June 30. Hopefully the next round of testing will result in any even higher percent of stores operating in compliance with the law.
photo credit: q13fox