The staff of Native Roots Aspen prepare the store for its opening on Jan. 21, 2015. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post file)

Two Aspen pot shops cited for underage sales in sting

The CEO of Native Roots says the employee who made the underage sale and the Aspen store's manager have been fired in the wake of the citation

(Story updated July 31, 2015, 5:48 p.m.)

Two recreational marijuana shops in Aspen were cited this week by state regulators for selling pot to an underage customer in a set of rare cases for the industry in Colorado.

The Marijuana Enforcement Division confirmed that it issued two citations after conducting seven underage compliance checks in Aspen.

Since January 2014, the division has conducted about 130 underage compliance checks statewide, resulting in a total of nine violations, MED spokesman Tommy Moore said.

In the 19 months since recreational marijuana has been legal in Colorado, recreational shops — for the majority — have been lauded for their compliance of state law, particularly on the hot button topic of underage possession and consumption.

In Washington, by comparison, which legalized recreational marijuana at the same time Colorado did, but implemented recreational sales six months later, several stores have been reprimanded for selling to minors.

The Aspen Times first reported the Native Roots citation.

Authorities have not said which shops were cited, but Native Roots confirmed to The Post on Friday that one of their employees sold marijuana to a state enforcement officer posing as an underage customer.

“Needless to say, we’re extremely remorseful,” said Dave Cuesta, who handles compliance and licensing for Native Roots.

“We’ve been through several sting operations and this is the first time our employees have sold to undercover agents,” he added.

According to Josh Ginsberg, CEO of Native Roots, one employee was cited in the sting.

“Saying that I’m appalled and outraged by this act would be an understatement,” Ginsberg said in a statement. “Native Roots holds itself to the highest standards, and as a company we’ve put measures in place to ensure the highest standards are met.”

Ginsberg said the employee in question and the Aspen store’s manager have been fired. He said “swift and company-wide action” will be taken to avoid underage sales.

Native Roots is one of Colorado’s largest recreational marijuana enterprises with 11 stores throughout the state, including one in Dillon that opened this week.

While medical-marijuana stores can sell to registered patients under 21, recreational stores can only sell to those over 21 and must check identification. Stores that are found selling to someone underage could have their license suspended or revoked or face a fine up to $100,000.

“It’s not something I hear about happening in Colorado,” Tyler Henson, president of the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, said of recreational shops selling to minors.

Henson said as an industry, recreational marijuana enterprises have been vigilant about selling to minors.

“Are we going to see these types of incidents in the future? I’m going to say it’s bound to happen,” he said.

Jesse Paul: 303-954-1733, jpaul@denverpost.com or twitter.com/JesseAPaul