The thing about marijuana legalization, and opening up cannabis sales to anyone aged 21 and over, is that it excludes a wide segment of the population. Sorry, kids, but those are the rules — and dispensaries in Oregon are following them.
Cannabis sales in Oregon are regulated by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. For years, alcohol regulators have tested merchants’ compliance with the law by sending in underage would-be buyers. They don’t even bother with a fake ID or neat disguise —they enter with their own, legitimate ID that identifies them as underage.
If the kids skate away with a six-pack (or, in this instance, so much as a preroll) the merchant is in trouble. But since this is the cannabis industry and legalization opponents are ready to seize on the slightest individual failure as proof that the whole experiment must be scotched, any dispensaries that sell to kids embarrass and jeopardized the entire industry.
Not this time. A recent round of liquor control commission stings in Oregon netted exactly zero violators. As Forbes reported, the 25 dispensaries in Portland, Bend, and Salem netted a 100 percent compliance rate — a marked turnaround from earlier in the year.
In December and January, several dispensaries in Oregon failed the decoy test and sold to underage buyers. Since then, penalties for dispensaries too lax with checking ID (or reading the numbers printed therein) were stiffened to a 30-day suspension of license and a fine of nearly $5,000.
Penalties imposed on scofflaw dispensaries are now three times as harsh as penalties imposed on merchants who sell alcohol to minors. By comparison, alcohol retailers have a compliance rate of only 78 percent in OLCC decoy stings, a spokesman for the agency told Forbes.
— Lisa Fischer (@HeyLisaMichelle) April 4, 2018
It seems evident that the marijuana industry is being held to a higher standard. In December, 16 of 86 cannabis retailers tested by the OLCC sold to underage decoys. That’s a “failure rate” better than the (admittedly much bigger) alcohol industry, but it was nonetheless “bad” enough to prompt a verbal spanking from OLCC executive director Steve Marks, who called that failure rate “unacceptable.”
“One of the basic tenets of Measure 91 [Oregon’s successful marijuana legalization voter initiative, approved in 2014] is the protection of children by discouraging their use of marijuana,” Marks said in a statement issued at the time. “Clearly, they’re not, and we need to continue this kind of enforcement activity.”
Fair or not, the message was clear and it was heeded. Since January 24, all 43 tested dispensaries in Oregon have declined to sell to underage buyers and sent the kids on their way.
Cannabis sales are restricted to adults 21 and over in Oregon, with medical-marijuana patients excepted. Patients can buy cannabis on their eighteenth birthdays. Minors can only peruse dispensary shelves if they are patients, and provided they are accompanied by an adult caregiver.
There are roughly 500 licensed cannabis dispensaries in Oregon, according to the Statesman Journal. Retailers routinely face fines for violations having nothing to do with underage sales, but it seems obvious they’re extra vigilant and on the lookout for tests.
TELL US, are you surprised?