Not One California Dispensary Caught Selling to Minors, Study Shows

Consistent with Colorado and Washington, California dispensaries are checking for ID as asked.

The perpetual myth that dispensaries are selling weed to minors refuses to die, but evidence shows this isn’t the case in California. Instead, adult-use dispensaries in the state are proving the system works by checking IDs as required by state law.

A new study disproves the theory that dispensaries make it easier for teens to get cannabis. Researchers sent out undercover patrons who looked underage to 50 randomly selected dispensaries in California to see if they could get weed without first furnishing an ID, as required. All dispensaries involved passed the test, which researchers admitted was “somewhat surprising.”

In California, people 18-20 with a doctor’s recommendation and any adult 21 and over can purchase cannabis.

The study, entitled “What is the likelihood that underage youth can obtain marijuana from licensed recreational marijuana outlets in California, a state where recreational marijuana is legal?” was published in the Journal of Safety Research and made available online on May 18.

“It appears that licensed recreational marijuana outlets in California are checking young patrons for identification of their age,” said the researchers involved in the study. “Therefore, it is unlikely that youth are purchasing marijuana directly from these outlets. It is more likely they are using other sources, such as asking an adult to purchase it for them, obtaining it from older friends or siblings, and using it at parties where the marijuana use might be shared. These sources will be difficult to monitor and control.”

According to NORML, in California, “sale or delivery of any amount of marijuana by someone who does not possess a state licensed permit is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.”

The data supports previous studies showing that Colorado and Washington also check patrons for their IDs to ensure that they are old enough.

“It was somewhat surprising that there was 100% compliance with the ID policy to keep underage patrons from purchasing marijuana directly from licensed outlets,” researchers continued. “However, that was consistent with what was observed in two other states, Washington and Colorado. One factor may be that underage youth are not allowed into the outlets—that is typically not the case at the state level for alcohol outlets.”

During 2020, youth cannabis use dropped—not increased—according to recent data. A recent survey from The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) showed that teen past-year cannabis use dropped around 3%.

Another research study published in Substance Use and Addiction arrived with similar results, finding that youth cannabis use did not increase, even as states legalized the plant. Several more studies arrived at similar conclusions, finding no changes or a decrease in teen or youth cannabis use as states legalize cannabis.

The theory is that by regulating cannabis in dispensaries, fewer teens and youth would be able to get their hands on cannabis from a dealer on the street. This would be the case even more if legal dispensaries that charge taxes didn’t have to compete with cheaper prices off the street.

The argument that dispensaries are somehow selling to kids is persistent in a number of states.

Meanwhile, opponents to cannabis in Princeton, New Jersey claimed that a proposed dispensary there would provide expanded access to cannabis for minors.

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