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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Pot stores doing better than liquor stores blocking underage buyers

OLYMPIA -- Minors may have a slightly easier time buying booze or cigarettes than pot at stores the state licenses.

State agents doing checks for all three restricted products said licensed marijuana stores passed tests for selling to underage buyers 90 percent of the time. For stores that sell liquor, the compliance rate was 86 percent, and for tobacco sales slightly lower, said Justin Nordhorn, enforcement chief for the Liquor and Cannabis Board, which oversees all three products.

Making sure that the state's legal marijuana stays out of the hands of minors is a key to meeting current U.S. Justice Department guidelines for having something legal in Washington that's illegal under federal law, Board Director Rick Garza told the House Commerce and Gaming Committee. How that will change under a new administration is unclear, he added.

The state currently has more than 1,200 licensed growers and processors and 462 licensed marijuana stores, Garza said. In the fiscal year that ended on June 30, it recorded almost $1 billion in sales; for the current fiscal year, that's expected to hit $1.3 billion, even though the price of marijuana is falling.

When state-licensed marijuana stores first opened in 2014, it was selling for about $30 a gram, he said. The current price is $8.61 a gram.

That's low enough to crowd out some illegal drug dealers, Committee Chairman Christopher Hurst, a former law enforcement officer, said.

The board staff continues to develop regulations as the industry expands. In January, the state Agriculture Department will begin spot testing marijuana for pesticides, and in February edible marijuana products will have to carry a sticker with a red hand that says "Not for Kids". 

The board recently has been getting requests from caterers for weddings and other events about a license to set up a "weed bar" to serve infused products to guests, Becky Smith, the board's chief of licensing said. 

The party-goers are out of luck, she said: "It's not allowed."


Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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