U.S. Attorney John Walsh says his seizure-threat letters to medical marijuana dispensaries near schools are intended to protect kids.
But in Englewood, it appears that minors are much more likely to get illegal intoxicants from bars, restaurants and liquor stores than MMCs.
The Englewood Police Department, working in conjunction with the Colorado Department of Revenue's liquor enforcement division, recently completed a project targeting establishments that serve or sell liquor. Investigators aged eighteen to twenty visited each of the 68 Englewood businesses that fit this description and tried to buy alcohol. If they were asked for an ID, they provided one that showed them to be under 21.
The results? Nineteen of the 68 sold booze to the minors. "That comes to something like a 28 percent violation rate," says Sergeant Christian Contos, EPD spokesman and member of the department's impact team, "which to us is very, very high. We would prefer zero violations."
The complete list of businesses that failed this test is on view below. According to Contos, "the individual who sold the alcohol to an underage person received a citation and will have to appear in our municipal court. And the store or business will have to appear before our liquor and medical marijuana licensing authority to explain the violation. They could have repercussions that range from a suspended probation type of sentence all the way up to the most extreme, revocation of their license." Some of these hearings have already taken place, he adds, while others cases will likely be considered at the panel's next meeting.
Thus far, Englewood hasn't conducted a similar operation aimed at the community's three medical marijuana dispensaries, "but we do regular business checks," Contos says, "and all of them are extremely strict. They don't even let someone in the store if they don't have a license to display."
Page down to continue reading and to see the list of cited alcohol-selling businesses. As Contos notes, "you don't need a license to get into an alcohol establishment. It's up to the establishment to recognize if someone might be underage or question their visit. But the dispensaries have double locked doors and you have to show your ID and license to get through the second locked door to do business with them. It's all very high security, per state regulations."
As such, Contos is not aware of any Englewood dispensary being cited for serving an underage or unlicensed person. Moreover, "based on what I can tell, I have not noticed an increase in juvenile marijuana use" since the centers opened in the community -- another assertion made by Walsh to justify the actions against MMCs near schools. In Contos's view, "the marijuana use we have in this city has been pretty consistent. I haven't noticed it go one way or another based on the dispensaries."
Neither has Contos perceived a big rise in arrests in the last couple of years for driving under the influence of drugs -- one of the rationales behind Senator Steve King's controversial THC driving limit bill. When asked his opinion about the legislation, Contos says, "I think it would probably be more helpful for the courts than for us. Our training allows us to know if a person is under the influence. We're going to make an arrest based on their behavior and actions and performance in roadside sobriety tests. A limit is a legal matter rather than something we'd deal with on the street."
How does Contos characterize the way dispensaries have fit into the community? "They are good neighbors," he says. "We had some problems when they opened up and were perfecting their ventilation systems; we had some neighbors reporting odor problems. But since dispensaries stopped allowing people to use marijuana on site, and since they've perfected their ventilation issues, those types of complaints have been significantly reduced. Parking is occasionally a problem, but they've been working with neighboring businesses to be good neighbors. And that's all we expect them to do -- to be good neighbors and follow the rules. Our opinion as a police department is that they're providing a product like any other business, and as long as they're following the laws regarding their business, we're okay with that."
At the same time, Contos emphasizes that "it's important our young people realize, both in terms of alcohol consumption and drug use, that we're not going to tolerate it. Aside from the criminal and administrative penalties that young people could face for using, and the penalties businesses could face if they sell to them. we're worried about the symptoms of this type of stuff: the DUI accidents we see as the weather warms up and there's prom and more parties. We don't want to see kids hurt or killed."
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That's another reason why Englewood is publicizing the businesses that sold alcohol to underage consumers. Here's the complete list:
2709 S. Broadway (Englewood Wine and Spirits)
2893 S. Broadway (Magnet Inn Bar)
101 Englewood Pkwy (King Soopers)
3021 S. Broadway (Twin Dragon Restaurant)
336 W. Hampden Ave. (Glass Bottle Liquors)
65 W. Floyd Ave. (The Casual Lounge)
3435 S. Inca St. (Blondie's Firehouse Bar)
333 W. Hampden Ave. (Chipotle Restaurant)
3900 S. Broadway (7-11)
3542 S. Fox St. (Bistro King Restaurant)
4415 S. Broadway (Liquor Barn liquor store)
3487 S. Logan St. (Los Portales Restaurant)
5180 S. Broadway (Black Eyed Pea Restaurant)
697 W. Hampden Ave. (Noodles & Co. Restaurant)
901 W. Hampden Ave. (Tokyo Joe's restaurant)
3535 S. Huron St. (The South Restaurant)
4601 S. Santa Fe Dr. (7-11)
504 E. Hampden Ave. (Taste of Thailand Restaurant)
5095 S. Federal Blvd. (Circle K)
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More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana update: U.S. Attorney John Walsh rejects safe harbor for MMCs."