After years of struggles with reduced staffing, officials with the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board’s Vancouver branch say they are returning to pre-pandemic levels of enforcement.
The board, which tests retailers’ compliance with state regulations by sending underage volunteers into businesses undercover to attempt to buy alcohol or marijuana, had to stop compliance checks when the COVID-19 pandemic started in March 2020.
Those checks returned in 2021, but the board’s efforts were limited by open positions and medical leaves within the department, according to Brian Smith, communications director for Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.
“Licensees will likely see more of our officers in 2023 than they did in 2021 and 2022 when we were challenged in our staffing,” Smith said.
The Vancouver branch office has five liquor officers, two cannabis officers and one compliance consultant. There is currently one vacancy in liquor and one officer in training who is not free to work on his own yet, according to Smith.
For most of 2022 the board had only three liquor officers and one cannabis officer as well as one compliance consultant, and they conducted 20 liquor compliance checks and 30 cannabis compliance checks in Clark County.
Officers at the board also investigate complaints and check premises. Compliance checks only take one to two days of the officers’ work in any particular month. For cannabis, they also sample for pesticides.