Colorado marijuana industry regulators under fire as underage sales checks nosedive

Colorado marijuana industry regulators under fire as underage sales checks nosedive
Denver Post

On about 600 occasions in 2019, state marijuana industry regulators sent hired operatives, aged 18 to 20, into Colorado dispensaries to check that the law barring sales to people under 21 was being followed. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and in 2020 state regulators reported only 118 of those checks. Last year, the number dropped to 80. This year, the Marijuana Enforcement Division says it’s on pace for 52 checks, having completed 14 through March. The reported compliance rate was above 95% each year, but some state lawmakers say the drop-off in total checks is alarming — and they told the division’s leaders that directly in a state Senate committee hearing late last month. “You now have a big old spotlight on you,” said state Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis, a Democrat of Boulder County. “You’ve got the whole Senate looking at you now.” “It sounds like you guys are too busy to get the work done,” said state Sen. Rhonda Fields, an Aurora Democrat. “You’re just throwing your hands up… with whatever fire that’s in your face. And some things are dropping through the cracks.” State Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer, a Brighton Republican, suggested the Marijuana Enforcement Division be audited by the state — something lawmakers formally requested after the hearing, and which could be approved as soon as June. But the division’s leadership says the story is much more nuanced than can be understood by looking at the sharp drop in underage compliance checks. In an interview with The Denver Post on Friday, Senior Director Dominique Mendiola and Deputy Director Kyle Lambert said they’ve pivoted in recent years to monitoring compliance in different ways that don’t always involve an under-21 operative. They said that in 2021, the division’s 80 underage compliance checks were supplemented by 160 other times in which,…

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