Two Tacoma recreational pot shops fined for selling to minors

Two recreational pot shops on Sixth Avenue in Tacoma were cited for selling marijuana to minors during the state’s first sweep of compliance checks, regulators said Wednesday.

Last week, the state Liquor Control Board notified the 156 stores in Washington that compliance checks would begin in May. The checks were done from Friday to Monday in Pierce, Kitsap, Cowlitz, Skagit and Snohomish counties.

Of the 22 legal pot shops tested in the initial round of sting operations, four failed by selling to people under the legal age of 21.

In Tacoma, Mary Mart, 3005 Sixth Ave., and Emerald Leaves, 2702 Sixth Ave., were cited for selling to minors. Two other shops — Diamond Green and Rainier Downtown — did not sell pot to minors.

The other two recreational marijuana stores cited for non-compliance — Green City Collective and Purple Haze — were in Snohomish County.

None of the four returned messages Wednesday from The Associated Press seeking comment.

There are 12 recreational pot shops in Pierce County.

“We recognize this is a new industry facing these types of checks for the first time and we spent time educating and preparing them for properly selling a substance that’s restricted to adults,” Liquor Control Board spokesman Brian Smith said.

“Once the news is out that there have been compliance checks and businesses were cited, there’s going to be a spike in compliance and that’s what we want.”

In its May 12 notification, the Liquor Control Board told businesses to be sure to check ID at the point of sale even if someone was checking ID upon entry into the business.

“If the counter clerk relies on the door person to check ID, and an illegal sale occurs, both employees are liable for the violation,” the board warned.

“The door person could be charged with allowing a minor to frequent, and the employee who made the sale could be changed with furnishing marijuana to the minor, which is classified as a felony criminal offense.”

The board said the licensed marijuana compliance rate of 82 percent is lower than the 85 percent rate for retail stores that sell some alcohol products and the 92 percent rate for stores that sell spirits.

To do the checks, investigators took helpers aged 18 to 20 and asked them to buy marijuana from the shops. If a clerk asked, the helper had to provide photo identification or refuse to provide one.

Smith said all the state’s recreational pot shops should be checked by June 30.

Those that receive three citations in three years could have their license canceled. Clerks who sold marijuana to underage customers could face criminal charges.

The shops cited can appeal or request an informal hearing. The businesses face a 10-day suspension, a $2,500 fine or a variation of both.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.