DENVER (CBS4) – The state agency in charge of making sure marijuana dispensaries aren’t selling to children is under fire. Two state senators are asking for an audit of the Marijuana Enforcement Division after learning the agency conducted just 80 underage compliance checks all of last year.
By comparison, the Liquor Enforcement Division conducted 2,400 checks. Seven of the 80 dispensaries targeted for enforcement were in Longmont. Investigators say four of them sold to kids who admitted they were underage.
“We should really be doing everything we can to keep it out of the hands of youth,” said Dawn Reinfeld, who leads a parent group called Blue Rising Together.
It pushed for a bill to increase compliance checks after an open records request found the Liquor Enforcement Division not only conducted 25 times more underage compliance checks last year, it did so with half as many full time employees.
State Senators Chris Hansen and Kevin Priola sponsored the bill that called for at least one check per dispensary per year.
“It wasn’t a bill that was anti-industry. It wasn’t a bill that was trying to come after any particular group. It was just saying to the Department of Revenue which runs Marijuana Enforcement Division, ‘please do your job,'” said Hansen.
While the Marijuana Enforcement Division insists it is doing its job, Hansen and Priola say the numbers don’t reflect that. Before COVID in 2019, the Division did 604 underage checks. This year it’s on track for just 50 checks.
Compliance too is down from 97% to 95%. With 30 million retail marijuana sales last year, that means up to 1.5 million were to minors.
Priloa says if the Division was doing its job it shouldn’t have requested a million dollars to comply with the bill.
“It seemed duplicitous in itself that you’re saying you’re already doing this, but if it does happen to pass into law, we need over $1 million to do what we’re already doing.”
Reinfeld went a step further, “It seems to me that they’re not prioritize keeping things out of hands of kids, but prioritizing being a business development arm for the state.”
Reinfeld says parents are also concerned about a lack of transparency. A spokesperson for the division says they’re working on updates to their website and will be including more data in their annual reports. She says they’re also recruiting more underage buyers for sting operations.
All but one lawmaker on the Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted against the bill that would have required more compliance checks.
The legislative audit committee needs to approve the senators’ request for an audit.