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Columbia Basin Herald , Vape shop owner claims enforcement officer overstepped during a visit on Tuesday

MOSES LAKE – A vape shop owner in Moses Lake is fuming after an enforcement officer from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) visited her shop on Tuesday and reportedly frightened one of her customers that was vaping flavored vape juice.

Margo Ross, the owner of Cloud 509 in Moses Lake, said an enforcement officer from the LCB visited her shop on Tuesday and inspected her shop to ensure it complies with the flavored vape juice ban that was approved nearly one month ago.

The LCB came in for our inspection, they’re going around to every single shop to make sure every shop is complying with the ban. The gentleman that we had come in was not happy that a customer we had in our shop was vaping flavored juice, which is not apart of the ban. It’s not in the wording of the ban. That is not apart of the law. The (enforcement officer) called me and I told him that was not apart of the ban,” Margo Ross told the Columbia Basin Herald Friday afternoon.

Ross added that the officer called her argumentative when she tried to explain to him that customers vaping flavored juice in a vape shop is not apart of the ban. “He told me that he could shut me down. He also threatened to give my customer a fine for vaping flavored vape juice. I have been following all of the rules that they are asking with this ban and all of the rules that the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board has asked all vape shop owners to abide by. An agent coming in and acting that way is not appropriate, especially toward my customers. It is not against them, it is against me selling flavored e-liquid. I did not sell him that flavored e-liquid.

Ross said she is working on taking certain steps in response to the officer’s alleged actions. Ross said she has surveillance footage of the alleged incident but declined to show the Columbia Basin Herald footage of the disturbance, and said she is working with her attorney in response to the incident on Tuesday.

“I don’t feel that the ban is appropriate. I feel like the ban is all part of the Master Settlement Agreement. It is all about money. It is not something to protect our children. My shop is an age-generated store. Just like when you showed your ID when you walked into the shop, we check ID when everyone walks into our shop. We do not sell to anybody underage. I do not sell to children and we have never received an infraction for selling to anyone underage. I think the ban is an overreach, and I think that the ban is all about they’re not making enough money off of tobacco, it is getting people to go back to smoking, and it is getting people back on cigarettes so that they can pay off that Master Settlement Agreement. Vaping is interrupting that and how much the state has to pay back,” she added.

A spokesman from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Control Board said in an email that they did receive a complaint from the Moses Lake area but were unable to comment due to an internal investigation that is underway.

“Our specific message to LCB enforcement is that we’re in education mode initially. We’re visiting all 4,600 retail stores statewide to ensure a) product is off shelves, b) banned product is not being sold and c) that the signs are up. Only in the rarest cases does the LCB use an emergency suspension – which is the equivalent of your words “shutting down her shop.” Licensees are entitled to substantial due process. We are not fining any individuals for vaping. That is clear,” Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Control Board Communications Director Brian Smith said Friday afternoon.

“Of course they are going to say that they’re in education mode, they’ve been telling everyone that. It’s not true, the officer did tell me that he could shut my shop and he threatened to fine my customer. It happened and it shouldn’t have,” Ross told the Columbia Basin Herald.

The ban on flavored vape juice will last 120 days, which left vape shop owners frustrated, upset and forced either to destroy the leftover inventory of flavored vape juice or to wait until the ban is over. In late September, Gov. Jay Inslee signed an executive order that directed the Washington State Department of Health to request the state’s board of health to adopt the emergency ban. The ban on flavored vape juice was passed by the Washington State Board of Health on Oct. 9 and took effect the next day.

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