Article by Mona Zhang, Forbes
All 25 marijuana dispensaries in Oregon passed the latest round of state minor decoy operations. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), which regulates the marijuana industry, periodically sends minors to try to buy marijuana from retail outlets. The latest operations targeted dispensaries in Portland, Bend and Salem, all of which had a compliance rate of 100 percent.
After a spate of dispensaries failed the checks in December and January, regulators tripled the penalties for selling to minors. Retailers now face a 30-day suspension or $4,950 fine for a first-time offense, with increasing penalties for additional offenses. The penalties are also three times those for selling alcohol or tobacco to minors.
Steve Marks, Executive Director of the OLCC, expressed dismay at the early failures in January. “These overall results are unacceptable,” he said in a statement. “This is a wake-up call to our licensed retailers. Oregonians have entrusted you with a responsibility that includes NOT selling marijuana to minors.”
It seems that the wake-up call has worked. In five minor decoy operations conducted since January 24, all 43 dispensaries passed the checks. The OLCC sends those under the age of 21 to buy cannabis with their actual IDs under the supervision of a commission inspector. Regulators had planned to visit every licensed retailer over the course of the year, but stepped up the checks after the industry’s early spotty compliance rate.
Some in the industry have expressed skepticism that increasing penalties would be effective in combating sales to minors. “Increasing the penalty on a merchant isn’t going to stop an employee who thinks he’s doing someone a favor by allowing them to buy when they’re 19 or 20 years old,” Don Morse, chairman of the Oregon Cannabis Business Council, told the Portland Business Journal.