Fake IDs popping up in Vail Valley pot shops as kids try to illegally buy legal marijuana
May 4, 2018
EAGLE-VAIL — Local budtenders tend to have cops on speed dial, alerting law enforcement that there is yet another underage customer in their dispensary, trying to foist yet another fake ID.
"We consistently get calls. It's not unusual to get a few calls a day," said James van Beek, Eagle County sheriff.
Like people in bars and liquor stores, fake IDs are not a new revelation. And while modern computer technology might help make the forgery process more science and less art, some attempts are better than others.
One dispensary pulled a fake ID with an address claiming the kid using it lived in Abalama, instead of Alabama. Fact is, the kid didn't live in either Alabama or its misspelled sister state Abalama.
Ask and tell
Marijuana remains illegal in the eyes of the feds, but as long as the industry tries to keep it away from kids, the feds pretty much leave them alone. It's an arrangement they're serious about maintaining.
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"The pot shops are very diligent. Their licenses are on the line," van Beek said.
Sometimes the perpetrators are still in the shops when budtenders call. Sometimes not.
"It's not the latest thing, but people continue to try it," van Beek said.
The sheriff said deputies collect a few hundred a year, largely from people on vacation from other states.
Pot is still relatively new, and so are fake IDs. Breckenridge dispensaries have confiscated 178 fake IDs in the past year and a half. Only 16 fake ID cases for alcohol were confiscated over the same period, according to Breckenridge municipal court records.
The Write stuff
Judge Buck Allen, municipal judge in Vail, Breckenridge, Eagle and other towns around the region, takes a flexible approach to these youthful indiscretions.
"We're holding the people who were charged accountable, but in a way that doesn't have the same kind of long-term ramifications," Allen told the Summit Daily News.
As part of their deferred judgment deal, Allen often asks underage marijuana defendants to write 500-word essays on the effects of marijuana on developing brains.
Allen estimates that he's read between 300 and 400 such essays since marijuana became legal in 2014. A recent one from a Breckenridge defendant was a particular standout, and Allen provided a copy to the Summit Daily News.
"Consumption of marijuana as an adolescent can not only have short-term effects in learning abilities and social development, but can also cause long-term IQ reduction, memory loss, improper cognitive functions and can significantly decrease life satisfaction," the essay reads.
The essay cites research linking marijuana to IQ point losses in adolescent but not adult users, as well as studies indicating the drug decreases verbal memory in younger users.
"Normally these kids, by the time they're done with it, they kind of come to the conclusion that maybe they shouldn't be smoking dope quite so soon," Allen said.
Summit Daily News reporter Jack Queen contributed to this story. Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.