Pot in Oregon

Oregon recently conducted “decoy” operations on some pot shops to verify compliance with the over-21 sales law, with really bad results. State-wide the compliance rate was around 80%, but in Portland it was only 47%. Recent results of the same test in Washington were around 97%. Oregon’s results can be regarded as a complete breakdown, by everyone involved.

A well-run cannabis store has 2 or 3 ID checks built into every transaction: a security guard checking at the door to prevent entry of minors, like a night-club, and another check by the cashier. Properly done both events are recorded on video. All customers are carded regardless of their obvious age. It’s a pain in the ass, but the risks of not complying are loss of business license, and perhaps federal raids, leading to a shut-down of an entire state’s program.

Almost everyone involved in this industry from growers to processors to sellers to customers to regulators accept this annoyance as necessary as the programs grow up from infancy. We can do the fine-tuning later when things settle down.

Carding everyone is a pain, but actually selling pot to a minor is really stupid. To have a failure rate of 50% is unfathomable. Now, to be fair here, the decoy operations are usually targeting stores for which suspicious activity has been brought to the attention of the regulatory agency, but regulators also routinely announce the operations to licensees ahead of time, making failures even worse.

Oregon’s laws are quite remarkable in the light hand put on the industry to encourage growth and capturing as many operations as possible into the licensing program. They have no limits on the number of licenses, and entry costs into the industry are the lowest anywhere. And taxes are about as low as you’ll see anywhere. Contrast with California.

Customers have some power here. I encountered a few stores in Oregon that didn’t card me, never in Nevada or Washington (unless I’m on a first-name basis with the store). I encountered one store in Oregon that couldn’t print receipts, didn’t enter the sale into the mandatory seed-to-sale tracking system, and didn’t have the paper to print the required warnings, test results, and provenance information. I stopped the transaction and left. I should have asked to see their license.

Customers, you have plenty of law-abiding stores with high-quality products to choose from, don’t give the jerks your money. And if you’re willing to write a quick note, let the regulators and the lawmakers know you expect them to do their jobs.

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