A lot of local business owners are shrugging off U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' war on weed.
But the Oregon Liquor Control Commission is still attempting to save the state from federal scrutiny by cracking down on illegal sales.
In late December, the agency conducted its first-ever round of "decoy operations" by sending minors out to pot shops in Eugene, Salem, Central Oregon, Southern Oregon and Portland. The goal of the operation was to measure the rate at which marijuana retailers are complying with the tenets of Measure 91—which outlines that cannabis not be sold to minors.
"We wanted to get out [and do inspections] before the close of 2017 to let the industry know that where before we'd been focused on compliance on the supply end, we are now focusing on retail," says OLCC spokesperson Mark Pettinger.
The good news was that most Oregon cities' compliance scores were above 70 percent, with squeaky clean Central Oregon retailers saying no to minors at every OLCC check.
Portland's score, however, was abysmal. At 43 percent our cannabis-loving city's compliance rate was the lowest of any other Oregon city tested.
"These overall results are unacceptable," OLCC's executive director, Steve Marks, said in a statement. "Oregonians who voted for legalizing recreational marijuana implicitly told the cannabis industry to abide by public safety laws. Clearly, they're not and we need to continue this type of enforcement activity."
The OLCC says decoy checks are done throughout the year to test that cannabis businesses are complying with the law. During the check, minors under 21 are commissioned by the agency to attempt to buy weed with their own legal ID. They are not permitted to disguise or lie about their age.
On Dec. 21, commissioned decoys were sent to seven licensed retailers along Sandy Boulevard in Portland. That's a street known as "the Green Mile" for its concentration of pot shops.
Four of the seven failed.
The stores that sold cannabis to minors, the OLCC says, were La Mota, Roseway Organics, Americana RX and Deanz Greans.
"The shops were neither random nor targeted," says Pettinger. "At this point, because it's our first go-round, it's hard to ascertain exactly what the problem in Portland is."
The penalties stores face for selling to people under 21 include a fine of $1,650 and an up-to 30 license suspension. Pettinger says marijuana retailers can expect ramped-up enforcement from here on out.
"Our intent is to do minor decoy operations at every retailer in the state at least once a year," Pettinger says. "And those locations that are problems can expect to have more than one visit."
Of the Oregon cities checked, compliance rates were as follows: The Eugene-Springfield area failed three out of 19 checks, for a compliance rate of 84 percent; the Keizer-Salem area failed five out of 23 checks, for a compliance rate of 78 percent; Central Oregon passed all five of its checks, for a compliance rate of 100 percent; Portland failed four of seven checks, for a compliance rate of 43 percent; and Southern Oregon failed four out of 12 checks, for a compliance rate of 67 percent.