I was planning on doing a column regarding our batshit-crazy mad-hatter Attorney General and his racist, prohibitionist rescinding of the Cole Memorandum and its tenuous protections. That would have been a fun read, and I bet I would have been the only one to have thoughts on the matter!
But that story is just beginning, so while responses and reactions are developing, let’s look at a big problem in Oregon that just came to light—something we can all agree needs to be corrected, especially now that Jeff Sessions is putting cannabis under the microscope.
INDISPUTABLE FACT: Cannabis should never be sold to, shared with, bartered, furnished, or slipped to minors. Getting kids high isn’t funny—kids shouldn’t be getting high, so don’t sell weed to kids. It’s creepy and wrong. Seriously, don’t be the Weinstein of weed for the junior set, creepo.
(EXCEPTION: If they are minors with a legitimate medical condition. And, yes, with all the existing biases against cannabis as medicine, that leaves open a broad question as to what constitutes a “legitimate” medical condition, especially for minors. Maybe I’ll save that for another column.)
But back to my first point. This is about dispensaries in Oregon getting spot-checked by the OLCC last month for something more than a faulty camera or other minor violation.
Over the holidays, the OLCC performed what they call “minor decoy operations” throughout the state, in which volunteers who are minors attempt to gain entry and make purchases from weed dispensaries. The volunteers, in the words of the OLCC, “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.” So these were not children with Benjamin Button prosthetics or glue-on beards, and they weren’t carrying fake identification.
Here are the results:
• Eugene and Springfield: 19 dispensaries visited, three failed. Compliance rate: 84 percent.
• Keizer and Salem: 23 dispensaries visited, five failed. Compliance rate: 78 percent.
• Portland: Seven dispensaries visited, four failed. Compliance rate: 43 percent.
• Central Oregon: five dispensaries visited, zero failed. Compliance rate: 100 percent.
• Southern Oregon: 12 dispensaries visited, four failed. Compliance rate: 67 percent.
The penalties for violating the law are not insubstantial. Getting caught for a first offense of sale to a minor can result in a license suspension of 10 to 30 days, or a fine of $1,650. Failure to check IDs properly can mean a seven-day license suspension or a fine of more than $1,100.
First off, mad props to Central Oregon with a 100 percent compliance rate. The rest of the state applauds you.
Now, the rest of the state? What... the... fuck... are... you...doing?
Portland, I’m looking hard at you. Forty-three percent compliance? Forty-three percent? Full compliance involves correctly reading a person’s ID. I understand that reading comprehension levels and attention spans in America may not be shattering ceilings, but this isn’t the untranslated Iliad, it’s an ID. That DOB line is easier to read than CliffsNotes, and it’s no more than eight digits.
I’ve checked IDs for a living before. I know it can be tedious, and can lead one to question the connection between work and self-esteem with extreme prejudice. But I was highly diligent in correctly executing my duties, knowing what was on the line if I screwed it up.
A quick look at the OLCC’s minor decoy operations for bars and liquor stores indicates that the compliance rates are similarly wide-ranging for booze sales to minors, although I’d need a lot more space to compare the potential negative consequences of having minors gain access to cannabis versus alcohol.
But importantly, alcohol is not in the crosshairs of the federal government right now—cannabis is. Strict diligence to the agreed-upon laws of our state cannabis program is absolutely necessary in securing legitimacy for an industry that is still feared and misunderstood in some corners of our society. No one wins when minors gain access to weed through regulated channels.
Every dispensary should view this as a wakeup call and rededicate themselves to ID standards. Jeff Sessions and other prohibitionists are actively seeking to dismantle the hard-won gains cannabis has made over the past few years. Let’s not give them easy ammunition with results like these. We’re better than that.