WA Liquor Control Board's plans to keep pot away from minors

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. -- As 2014 carries on, marijuana retail stores will soon be popping up around the state. One of the biggest concerns for many parents is that pot will be easier for minors to get their hands on.

The same agency that will be overseeing marijuana already controls liquor and tobacco across the region. KIMA looked into how many minors are already getting access under their supervision, and spoke with the Liquor Control Board about what new regulations will be put in place once marijuana is on the market.

Susan Lavery, a Yakima mother and grandmother, doesn't want her grandchildren getting a hold of marijuana.

"Like anything else it needs to be regulated, so that like tobacco, or chew, or alcohol they can't, they can't get it so easily," said Lavery.

She knows that despite lessons from their parents, sometimes kids make the wrong choices.

"The peer pressure is what does it, even if a kid doesn't want anything to do with it, it's the friends and the friends of friends that get them into trouble," said Lavery.

It's also a main concern of the federal government, so Washington's Liquor Control Board is stepping up regulation to ensure this doesn't happen.

Similar to regulation of alcohol and tobacco, they'll carry out compliance checks for marijuana retail stores. They'll send an underage kid into a store to try and purchase the drug without a valid license. Stores that don't pass the check will face a fine of about $500 or suspension.Three violations in two years can result in store owners losing their license all together.

"I think that many of these new license holders will take that responsibility very seriously because they know the consequences are pretty steep for failure," said Brian Smith, Spokesman for the Liquor Control Board. "So we've made sure they understand right off that this is how we will be operating and enforcing the law."

KIMA pulled the numbers to see how many minors are already getting access to alcohol and tobacco. Violations for selling to minors from these compliance checks has remained consistent in Yakima County, but risen in Kittitas, Benton, and Franklin counties.

Susan and the Liquor control board realize that unfortunately some youth will still have access to the drug in other ways, but hopefully with tighter regulations, getting it from the state won't be an option.

"They have to wait until they're of age, just like they do with anything else," said Lavery.

The Liquor Control Board has asked for the state to allow them ten additional officers to conduct compliance checks in marijuana retail stores. They say a legislative session should start next week to determine if the budget will allow it.