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Marijuana Legalization Is Protecting Kids Better Than Alcohol Legalization

Russ Belville

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The anti-legalization group Project SAM recently reported on the sales of marijuana to minors by licensed establishments in Washington State.

In a tweet showing a pie chart of marijuana violations, Project SAM noted “>125 for selling pot to a minor,” labeling Washington’s legalization of marijuana a “failed experiment.”

If anything, that data shows us that marijuana legalization is succeeding at protecting kids.

Project SAM is careful not to mention that these 126 violations aren’t per month or per year. They are actually all the sales to underage buyers Washington has cited since compliance checks began in May 2015.

In other words—underage sale violations occurred 5.25 times per month, on average.

Meanwhile, Washington has also conducted compliance checks on the licensed retailers of alcohol.

In the time span of May 2015 to Dec 2016, there have been 892 incidents of booze sales to minors.

That works out to around 44.6 underaged alcohol sales violation per month, on average.

This data set showing the overall marijuana compliance rate since May 2015 to be nearly 92 percent seems to escape SAM’s attention. (The overall alcohol compliance rate from May 2015 to Dec 2016 was a little over 83 percent.)

Washington State’s marijuana data dashboard is also providing much more information than Project SAM is promoting.

For instance, SAM doesn’t seem to be interested in noting the data showing the state collected over $250 million in taxes from marijuana sales in fiscal year 2017.

I spoke with Brian E. Smith, the communications director for the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, who confirmed my math.

He informed me that the monthly compliance rate for alcohol retailers in the state falls around 75 percent to 85 percent—meaning there’s between a one-in-four and a one-in-seven chance that an alcohol licensee will sell to a minor.

The monthly compliance rate for marijuana retailers, he told me, is consistently at or above 90 percent—or a less than one-in-10 chance that a pot shop will sell to a minor.

That’s not ideal; we’d all prefer the compliance rate for not selling alcohol or marijuana to a minor was at 100 percent.

But clearly, marijuana retailers are doing a better job of protecting our kids than alcohol retailers—and are checking IDs nearly 100 percent more often than street corner weed dealers do.

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RELATED: The ‘What About the Children’ Anti-Marijuana Argument
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