Oregon Officials to Deploy Decoys to Catch Underage Weed, Alcohol Sales

The Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission is on a mission to find retailers who sell to underage patrons.

The Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC) will resume operations and send underage decoys to cannabis and alcohol retailers according to a September 15 press release.

In some Oregon cities, two out of three retailers failed to check for IDs with “abysmal” results—leading OLCC officials to promise a heavier-handed operation this time around.

The OLCC oversees its Minor Decoy Operations (MDO), and officials will send decoys under the age of 21 to both alcohol and cannabis retailers to attempt to purchase products from them. The OLCC chose to pay decoys this year instead of recruiting volunteers, and sought out 18 to 20-year-olds who appeared to look aged 26 or older.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the chaos that ensued, Minor Decoy Operations was shut down temporarily as it was getting more and more difficult to recruit volunteers. OLCC restarted the program last May and recruited people between the ages of 18 and 20.

OLCC carried out several operations across Oregon, and said that the operations have revealed that a stunning number of retailers in the state are not properly checking IDs for underage patrons.

“The state has never seen these kinds of terrible results in alcohol sales compliance checks since the program was initiated in the 1990’s,” said Steve Marks, OLCC Executive Director. “Every licensee that engages in the sale of alcohol needs to immediately place a priority on the proper training of servers and store clerks.”

Eugene retailers performed especially badly: In two MDOs in the Eugene region, around two out of three retailers failed to properly check identification and sold alcohol to an OLCC minor decoy posing as a customer. The combined compliance rate for the Eugene MDOs was just 35%.

Since the program restarted, the OLCC launched five regional operations across the state to check 64 locations that sell alcohol. Two MDOs in Portland produced compliance rates of 70% and 85%, and a single MDO in the Salem region resulted in a compliance rate of 88%—the best result so far.

This makes the statewide compliance rate 63% since the MDO activity started again. OLCC’s objective is to have 90% or more of its licensees in compliance. Individual MDO reports containing more details can be found on the OLCC website.

OLCC officials are frequently in cahoots with police. “The OLCC and local law enforcement agencies frequently partner in operations together monitoring minor decoys who attempt to purchase alcohol,” the OLCC stated.

The OLCC ramped operations up in 2018 when weed retailers failed to check minors for IDs, “in order to remind the industry of the importance of this public safety issue, and to get an immediate improvement in results.”

Inspectors from OLCC’s Compliance Division are available to provide identification checking classes to alcohol and marijuana retailers at no cost. Information on how to contact an OLCC regional office to schedule an in-person class can be found on the OLCC website. Licensees can find an ID checking tip sheet on the OLCC website.

OLCC Executive Director Marks is more than a little concerned about the failure to comply with regulations.

“The statewide compliance rate as it currently stands is abysmal,” said Marks. “These results are fully unacceptable and be assured that OLCC understands its profound responsibility to Oregonians to ensure sales of alcohol are made properly. We will take action.”

Abysmal compliance rates from retailers in Oregon were also an issue in 2018, which was the last time the OLCC ramped things up.

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