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

According to a press release dated September 15, the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission will resume operation and dispatch underage decoys (cannabis and cannabis retailers) according to a September 15 press statement.

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.

Minor Decoy Operations are overseen by the OLCC. Officials will dispatch decoys to alcohol or cannabis retailers under 21 years old to try to buy products. The OLCC decided to hire volunteers and pay decoys. They sought out people between 18-20 years old who looked like they were 26-years-old or older.

Minor Decoy Operations had to be temporarily shut down due to COVID-19’s pandemic and subsequent chaos. It was becoming increasingly difficult to recruit volunteers. OLCC resumed the program in May last year and recruited individuals between 18 and 20 years old.

OLCC conducted several investigations in Oregon and found that many retailers aren’t properly verifying IDs of 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 retail stores performed particularly poorly: Around two-thirds of the MDOs within Eugene failed to verify identification, and two thirds sold alcohol to minors pretending to be customers. Just 35% of the Eugene MDOs had a combined compliance rate.

The OLCC has launched five new regional operations in the state since the program was relaunched to inspect 64 alcohol-selling locations. 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.

Since the MDO activity began again, the state compliance rate is now 63%. OLCC’s objective is to have 90% or more of its licensees in compliance. The OLCC website contains individual MDO reports with more detail.

OLCC officials often work in secret with the 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. The OLCC website has information on how to reach a regional office of OLCC to arrange an in-person class. The OLCC website has a tip sheet for ID verification.

Marks, OLCC Executive Director is worried about compliance 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.”

Retailers in Oregon had poor compliance rates in 2018. This was also the case in 2018, when the OLCC took it up.