At the end of July, Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division released its annual performance audit. This division, as specified in the report, is responsible for “regulating Colorado’s retail marijuana industry,” “inspecting marijuana stores,” “investigating alleged violations of marijuana laws and rules,” and “pursuing enforcement actions.”
Yet, key findings of the report revealed that though they are charged with “strictly regulating” these drugs, the state has presided over an incompetent bureaucratic office that skirted many of its responsibilities.
For a department called the Marijuana Enforcement Division, it seemed the group repeatedly failed to enforce. Consider the discoveries mentioned in the report.
The 2023 audit revealed that the division did not seek “any disciplinary action against the stores for 23 of 44 violations of marijuana laws and rules that affected public safety.” This included violations of selling marijuana to underage children. It raises the question: What’s the point of having an enforcement division that fails to enforce more than half the incidents it was supposed to?
The report also revealed that the Marijuana Enforcement Division failed to conduct an underage compliance check on 75 dispensaries in the state. This was especially troubling because these stores were previously listed as a high priority and a risk, according to the report.
Furthermore, the division’s inability to hold locations that illegally sold marijuana to underage individuals accountable was exposed in another key finding. It indicated that “division investigators did not consistently cite retail marijuana stores for all violations associated with marijuana sales to underage individuals.”
The audit then provided the details of the division’s failures: “Of the seven stores reviewed that were cited for selling marijuana to an underage operative, only six were also cited for failing to verify the operative’s age, five were cited for allowing the operative into a restricted access area where marijuana is sold, and three were cited for transferring marijuana to a customer without a valid ID,” the audit read. This was yet another example of Colorado’s marijuana enforcement department failing to do its job of enforcing the law.
Additionally, the audit discovered that, between fiscal years 2019 and 2022, the division failed to inspect 36% of “newly-licensed retail marijuana stores within one year of approving those licenses” despite the official policy stipulating such stores would be checked within one year of licensure. The division also failed to check locations known to be “risk factors.”
There was more: the enforcement division did not inspect 32% of stores that “appeared on at least one monthly targeted inspection report because [41% of those] had never been inspected or had not been inspected within the past two years.”
At a time when we are learning THC is the number one result in youth suicide toxicology reports, we can ill afford to fall asleep at the regulatory wheel. Coloradans were assured that the marijuana industry would be strictly regulated following legalization. However, a decade later, we’ve seen how this is yet another false promise made by the industry and its allies.
The 2023 Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division audit is just the latest in a long line of failures related to the legalization of marijuana in Colorado. Whether it has been the increased traffic fatalities on the highways, children rushed to hospitals for consuming hazardous marijuana products, or an incompetent bureaucratic office that fails to hold lawbreakers accountable and protect the state’s most vulnerable populations, marijuana has demonstrably shown it does more harm than good.
It’s time for regulators and the Colorado Assembly to get serious about “strictly regulating” marijuana.
The Colorado Sun is a nonpartisan news organization, and the opinions of columnists and editorial writers do not reflect the opinions of the newsroom. Read our ethics policy for more on The Sun’s opinion policy and submit columns, suggested writers and more to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Learn more about how to submit a column.)