Children Are Not Accessing Cannabis Through Dispensaries

One of the ongoing arguments by cannabis prohibitionists is that establishment of a regulated cannabis program will result in those under 21 having increased access to cannabis through dispensary sales.

“Our children don’t need to be buying weed from these stores” is a common complaint, and the cannabis industry agrees. No, those under the age of 21 should NOT be buying weed from a dispensary, and a recent study shows that in two states with recreational cannabis programs, they aren’t.

The study was performed by the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, and reported by Marijuana Moment. Researchers studied a total of 85 dispensaries in Colorado and 90 in Washington State in an effort to determine if the measures in place in both states around age and ID requirements were working. They sent in prospective buyers who were either under 21 with ID, or buyers without ID who “appeared young.”

These brave young people, who in all likelihood are the envy of their friends by landing a chill part time gig attempting to buy cannabis, made a total of 349 visits in both states between September 2016 to April 2017.

Each and every time, an ID was requested at some point by staff, be it at the front door, on the floor of the dispensary itself, or at the sales counter when attempting to make a purchase.

Colorado had a slightly better record than Washington State, but the numbers for both are impressive.

From the study: “Stores refused buyers in 73.6% of visits at the entrance, 88.3% cumulative before the counter, and 92.6% by the time of a purchase attempt.

Refusal was lower in Washington State (at entry, 53.1%; before the counter, 80.5%; and at purchase attempt, 86.6%) than in Colorado (at entry, 95.3%, before the counter, 96.5%, and at purchase attempt, 98.8%,), but it did not differ by buyer protocol.“

The researchers had a theory as to why Washington lagged a bit. “More than 40% of buyers made it onto the stores’ sales floor in Washington State without having their IDs checked, and only about three quarters were checked before making the purchase attempt…. Checking IDs at the door may be an effective compliance technique.

When buyers are able to interact with the clerk at the counter and select a product for purchase, clerks may believe erroneously that some other employee checked their IDs, establish a relationship with buyers, and/or feel pressure to conclude the sale.”

The OLCC performed similar underage buying compliance checks in 2018, albeit for a far smaller number of dispensaries.

The first round resulted in 100 percent compliance for those dispensaries visited in Central Oregon, and a less than stellar 42 percent compliance rate in Portland. Portland redeemed itself shortly thereafter in a follow up which resulted in a perfect 100 percent compliance rate.

Worth noting: Shortly after the OLCC dispensary checks, Oregon cannabis activist Russ Belville crunched some numbers for similar OLCC compliance checks of liquor stores, and found that they did slightly worse than dispensaries.

Josh Taylor is a well-known and successful entrepreneur in the legal cannabis space, producing B2B and B2C cannabis events, "Backstage Budtending" and upscale concierge services through his companies and His weekly syndicated newspaper column and features about cannabis ran for five years until March 2020.

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