The Washington State liquor control board called its state’s legal marijuana businesses, warning them to expect sting operations for stores selling to minors, and yet 18% (4 out of the 22) of stores tested for compliance were still caught selling weed to minors.
As an outspoken supporter of legalization (in case you missed it!), this misstep of almost one-fifth of stores tested really pisses me off. Opponents of legalization are obsessively watching states like Washington and Colorado, looking for the slightest reason to say, “A-HA! Told ya so,” and here these stores are validating one of the prohibitionist’s main arguments: that legalization will put weed in the hands of kids.
The liquor control board sent 18- to 20-year-olds into establishments with their real IDs to see if any stores would sell to them. The operatives were instructed to present their IDs when asked for, and to not offer ID when the store doesn’t ask for it. If the minor were able to buy weed, they’d hand it over to the cops waiting outside the store, who’d then issue the offending business a citation and fine.
In Washington, marijuana retailers caught selling to minors face fines up to $2,500 and possible license suspension. If they are caught selling to minors three times, they can lose their license entirely, forcing them out of business, and the person who processed the transaction could face a felony charge. In the face of all this, you have to wonder, why the fuck would anyone risk it?
Thankfully, the powers that be aren’t quite as hard on these idiots as I am.
Brian Smith of the liquor control board puts some of the blame on human error, citing misreading of birthdates, or that many marijuana stores have personnel at the door and the register, possibly leading a clerk to assume an ID has already been checked.
“It’s early,” Smith told TIME. “This is a brand new industry that is finding its way. There’s going to be some kinks initially.”
Smith also pointed out that regular compliance tests like this are often conducted among the state’s liquor sellers, who also slip-up regardless of the industry being nearly a century old. The board has found that since 2012 an average of 85% of businesses are following the law and refusing sale to minors — only 3% more than these findings among marijuana retailers.
“We’re always gong to have the goal of 100% compliance, that’s what we want,” said Sen. Ann Rivers, who’s continuously working on reforming the marijuana industry and its regulations. “82% is good, but it’s not great. Many of these businesses have invested a lot of time and a lot of money, and it’s stunning to me that they’d be willing to risk their livelihood to do something so foolish.”
In 2014, Colorado conducted compliance tests for 20 random retail marijuana stores and found that 100% were in compliance. (However, more than 250 other state marijuana retailers were not tested.) The Washington State liquor control board intends to test all of its 138 marijuana stores, and we can only hope these four idiots who garnered national attention by failing the first round will make everyone else lock it up.
“When the news is out, we’ll see a spike in compliance,” Smith said. “That’s what happened on the alcohol side.”
I sure hope so — our industry is already under constant attack and ridicule, let’s not help our opponents out by making one of its primary fear-mongering tactics into a reality. At least this story has a silver lining.
“It’s always disappointing when there are isolated incidents of non-compliance, but it’s also a powerful example of how a legal, regulated market leads to more accountability and responsibility,” Taylor West of the National Cannabis Industry Association told TIME. “Because you can certain bet no one’s checking IDs in the criminal market, and a regulatory process incentivizes legal businesses to play by the rules.”