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Alex Andrade says she has never smoked cannabis in her life. In fact, she also insists she’s never consumed alcohol, nor ever smoked a cigarette or drank anything caffeinated.
“Drinking earl gray tea is about as crazy as I get,” Andrade said.
She admits it’s odd then how she became the owner of Blackbird Crow Dispensary in Monmouth, being a strong proponent for cannabis’s medicinal uses. And further laments, as a strong advocate for keeping cannabis out of the hands of minors, how she recently got caught selling it to an undercover agent for the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission.
“For me, I’ve have never had a non-compliance. This was my first one,” said Andrade who has been selling cannabis products since 2015.
Looking back on the day that left a permanent mark on both her facility license and her bud license, it was simply the confluence of a perfect storm. An employee had just gone on break. A second agent was successfully causing a distraction, and the undercover youth presented an ID card she’d never seen before. She thought she saw the year 1999 for the date of birth.
“So I thought, OK, my son was born in 2000. So, 99, you’re good. I did sell to her. I was distracted and that’s what they’re supposed to do. I’m not upset about that. I want people to remember we make mistakes,” Andrade said. “I cried so hard the next day.”
As a result of the transgression, OLCC issued her a ticket, leaving Andrade the option to either pay a $5,000 fine or close down for 30 days.
“Ouch. It’s not an option to close down,” she said.
She has since taken precautionary steps to ensure selling to minors never happens again.
“I got a magnifying glass to more closely inspect these new ID cards. I also called my POS (point of sale) tech person. He installed a new part where I now have to enter DOB to complete the sale. I also got some black light flashlights. A lot of things so this doesn’t happen again,” she said.
What bothers her more than the fine, however, is being caught selling to someone underage when she considers herself a huge advocate against underage use. Andrade said she’s even had to move her daughter out of public school due to the so much of the product ending up in the wrong hands.
“I think there is a huge problem, especially in small communities where there is not a lot to do and they turn to pot,” she said.
Ironically, as the owner of a recreational cannabis dispensary, Andrade said she would have preferred if the state had kept it to medicinal uses only.
She was first introduced to the benefits of cannabis helping her own mother through painful health treatments. Her mother actually talked her into opening her first store in Independence in 2015.
“I really liked it when it was a medical, when I was helping people. I’ve had so many cancer patients. Had people who have lived and became really good friends. And some friends who didn’t live and died. You’re trained to help them, manage pain, have some sort of life. Like those in chemotherapy,” Andrade said.
Little did she know she was getting herself into what she considers the “wild west” by entering the cannabis industry. She recounted roadblocks to banking with such large sums of cash to people on power trips within the bureaucracy. To top it off, a former employee stole more than $38,000 in cash intended for a tax payment. This led to a licensing issue that became easier to abandon the store and move to a new location in Monmouth in 2018.
But she didn’t realize until too late the occupant next door moved out and another marijuana dispensary moved in, OG Cannabis Dispensary. The Monmouth market had overnight become oversaturated.
“We probably have highest per capita in the state, because we have four dispensaries in a very small radius,” Andrade said.
But what most led to her fine, she admits, was complacency.
“I haven’t had an inspection in my store in 3 1/2 years and they are supposed to be doing it yearly if not every two years,” Andrade said. “It’s really frustrating. I feel like inspections are great time they could talk to you about any new changes, a good time to interact, ask questions. It would have been a good time to say, ‘Hey, this is what the new IDs look like,’ because they’ve changed so much. I’d never seen one. I was unfamiliar.”
Andrade said her clientele are mostly older residents who still purchase cannabis for medicinal purposes, while her neighbor, OG, attracts the younger crowd using marijuana recreationally.
So, given her current situation, why doesn’t she just get out? Andrade’s tried. The first attempt led to a scam she could have lost the store and left her penniless. So now, she can’t get out.
“I’ve put everything I’ve had into this. I can’t afford to get out,” Andrade said. “I tried to sell, but it fell through. Anyone new, they come in and see I’m right next door to OG, they don’t want it. I just have to keep doing it until something changes or someone comes along and says I’ll help get you out of it.”
In the meantime, she wants to maintain her advocacy for the state to keep cannabis out of the hands of kids. While she wants to see the OLCC spend more on education efforts, she hopes to work locally with law enforcement to spread the word in Monmouth.
“I’m making sure this never happens again. I feel so disappointed in myself because I feel so strongly about the issue,” she added.