C. Oregon marijuana retailers again ace minor 'sting'

But stores in other areas of the state fared worse

PORTLAND, Ore. - Over the holidays, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission conducted more minor decoy operations across the state and found that some licensed marijuana retailers are selling marijuana products to minors. But two rounds of minor-decoy "stings" on the High Desert last month found all of the local retailers checked their ages and didn't sell to them -- unlike other parts of the state that fared poorly.

  • On December 20, in the Eugene-Springfield area, marijuana inspectors visited 19 licensed marijuana retailers, and three (3) failed a check for prohibiting sales to a minor volunteer.  Compliance rate: 84%
  • On December 21, in the Keizer-Salem area, marijuana inspectors visited 23 licensed marijuana retailers, and five (5) failed a check for prohibiting sales to a minor volunteer.  Compliance rate: 78%
  • On December 21, in Portland, marijuana inspectors visited seven (7) licensed marijuana retailers, and four (4) failed a check for prohibiting sales to a minor volunteer.  Compliance rate: 43%
  • On December 28, in Central Oregon, marijuana inspectors visited five (5) licensed marijuana retailers, and none (0) failed a check for prohibiting sales to a minor volunteer.  Compliance rate: 100%
  • On December 29, in Southern Oregon, marijuana inspectors visited 12 licensed marijuana retailers, and four (4) failed a check for prohibiting sales to a minor volunteer.  Compliance rate: 67%

Two of the five Central Oregon retailers tested this time were in Bend -- High Grade Organics on Southeast Davis and Jenny's Dispensary on Northeast Third Street. The other three were in Madras: Diamond Tree on N. Highway 26, Plantae on SW Highway 97 and Central Organics on Southwest Fourth Street.

About a week earlier, 20 Central Oregon retailers in Bend and La Pine were visited in another OLCC sting operation -- and all passed the test. But the poor results elsewhere in the state prompted concern.

“These overall results are unacceptable,” said Steve Marks, executive director of the OLCC.  “One of the basic tenets of Measure 91 is the protection of children by discouraging their use of marijuana. Oregonians who voted for legalizing recreational marijuana implicitly told the cannabis industry to abide by public safety laws.  Clearly they’re not, and we need to continue this type of enforcement activity."

The OLCC conducts the decoy operations to make sure marijuana licensees are complying with state laws and OLCC regulations to keep minors from entering licensed retail businesses to purchase marijuana products.

Sale of marijuana products to anyone under the age of 21 is a violation that for a first offense could result in a 10 to 30 day license suspension, or a fine of $1650, depending on whether or not the sale is intentional.  Failure by a marijuana licensee, or its employee, to check a customer’s identification before the attempted purchase of a marijuana product is a violation that could result in a seven-day license suspension or a fine more than $1,100. 

The framework for regulating recreational marijuana was established in Measure 91, which was approved by voters in 2014, using the OLCC alcohol regulatory structure.  The penalties for marijuana licensees’ violations were established based on the criteria used for penalizing alcohol licensees. 

During the sales checks, a minor volunteer attempts to enter a licensed marijuana retailer and/or purchase marijuana products from a licensed business to see if staff are checking ID’s correctly and refusing entry to anyone under 21.  Commission inspectors supervise the minor volunteers. 

The volunteers carry their own legal ID that identifies them as under 21 and do not disguise their age or lie to encourage the sale of marijuana. The Oregon Driver license for a minor carries a red border around the picture with the words “Under 21 until,” followed by the date of his/her 21st birthday.

The OLCC tests licensed marijuana businesses throughout the year, with each licensed retailer receiving a minimum of one visit per year.  The OLCC offers a free training course on how to check ID’s and identify false identification.

“This is a wake-up call to our licensed retailers," Marks said. "Oregonians have entrusted you with a responsibility that includes NOT selling marijuana to minors.  By doing so, you tarnish the cannabis industry and put your business in jeopardy,” said Marks. 

Results from the Marijuana Decoy Operations can be found on the OLCC marijuana website under the Recreational Marijuana Sales section and under the OLCC Public Safety Division Minor Decoy Operations.

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