Pot sting operations will use minors

SEATTLE — State officials will use minors in marijuana-buying stings next year when Washington’s new legal pot stores open.

Charged with implementing the new law that allows adults over age 21 to possess an ounce of pot, the state Liquor Control Board already uses minors in “controlled buys” of alcohol at retail stores.

The board’s enforcement chief said using the same strategy with marijuana makes sense, especially because federal officials want to make sure Washington restricts minors’ access to the drug.

“Of course the feds are looking at a tightly regulated market around youth access, and I think this shows we’re being responsible,” said Justin Nordhorn.

The agency also will ask the Legislature to set penalties for minors who attempt to purchase legal pot and those who use or manufacture fake ID cards for that purpose.

Alison Holcomb, chief author of the new law voters approved last year, agreed that using minors in pot-buying stings would support the state and federal emphasis on limiting youth access.

But as criminal-justice director for the ACLU of Washington, Holcomb does not believe that adding criminal laws for pot possession is a good idea. She said she would prefer a focus on other prevention strategies.

Nordhorn said there are currently no penalties for teenagers who try to buy legal pot. He’d like the offense to be a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor, and likewise for making or using fake IDs to buy pot.

Under liquor laws, it’s a misdemeanor to use a fake ID and a gross misdemeanor to manufacture a bogus one.

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