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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

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