Agency Seeks Peace Officer Authority to Enforce Marijuana Laws, Yet Experience Shows Legal Marijuana Businesses Police Themselves Effectively
PORTLAND – The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) held their first meeting Friday addressing their mandate to regulate the newly-legalized marijuana industry in the state. Among the decisions by the commission was a request that the Legislature grant OLCC some kind of peace officer authority in order to adequately enforce the rules under Measure 91.
“We don’t want the agency to be a paper tiger when it comes to enforcing the law,” said OLCC Chairman Rob Patridge. The OLCC currently employs 45 peace officers whose job is to coordinate with local law enforcement on criminal investigations and stings on businesses selling alcohol to minors.
“Portland NORML supports regulating marijuana equally to alcohol and OLCC should be adequately staffed with the proper authority to do so,” remarked Portland NORML Executive Director Russ Belville. “Preventing access to marijuana by minors, unless under the auspices of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, is something our membership wholeheartedly supports.”
Portland NORML warns, however, against exaggerated concerns about legalization problems that have yet to occur in Colorado and Washington, much less Oregon. “This summer, the Denver Post reported that sting operations in Denver and Pueblo, Colorado, by their Marijuana Enforcement Division found that precisely zero marijuana shops would sell to underage consumers. Meanwhile, police uncovered twenty-eight instances of bars, restaurants, and shops that sold alcohol to minors, a far more dangerous substance for a developing teen’s brain.”
The trend holds true in Oregon, where to date, there have been no reports of licensed medical marijuana dispensaries serving anyone not properly identified and holding an Oregon Medical Marijuana Program card. Meanwhile, in Friday’s meeting the commission handed out fines and suspensions for seven alcohol licensees found to serving alcoholic beverages to minors.
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