California law prohibits children (under 21) from possessing, using, or buying cannabis. Marketing for marijuana must be tailored in a such a way that it’s less likely to reach them. Proposition 64 (California’s recreational marijuana law) requires a default buffer to keep dispensaries at least 600 feet away from schools, day cares, and youth centers; local ordinances be even more stringent in their requirements. Yet pot shops apparently aren’t doing a great job of keeping cannabis away from kids, according to new research.
A new study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics took a look at how well state regulations intended to keep marijuana out of the hands of minors have been working. The analysis examined the practices of 700 licensed marijuana dispensaries in the state. Researchers discovered that kids can be exposed to both marketing and products, in spite of the restrictions on both.
Dispensaries are required by law to screen out customers who are underage. Many do this with blatant signage, having a checkpoint with mandatory ID (inside or outside), and tailoring marketing efforts where ads are unlikely to reach those under 21.
For this study, researchers close to the legal age cutoff (between the ages of 21 and 23) went into hundreds of dispensaries throughout California to document their screening process. Of the shops they entered, 97 percent were compliant with ID checks. However, only 12 percent verified customers’ ages outside the shop, and nearly 70 percent did not comply in having signs indicating age limits. For the most part, dispensaries were only requiring proof of age once the person was already inside, where both products and marketing materials were in plain view.
What this means, researchers note, is that accidental or not, kids are going to be exposed to an expansive array of cannabis products and marketing materials. That is especially problematic, researchers asserted, because more than one-third of dispensaries sold items in their retail section that might easily appeal to teens and kids. Lots also had promotions, weekly/daily deals, and first-time discounts, which might also be alluring to youth. More than 1 in 5 violated the state ban on free samples for takeaway items. A full 16 percent violated prohibitions for on-site consumption.
Checks on dispensary compliance on these points aren’t mandatory, though our Los Angeles marijuana lawyers know that local authorities will conduct them as resources allow. Researchers are urging government authorities to make such compliance checks more of a priority.
Cannabis dispensaries should work with an experienced cannabis lawyer to help ensure they are in compliance with not only the letter, but the spirit of the law as well. This may go a long way in insulating firms from potential liability.
This is especially important given that other researchers have concluded cannabis use among youth has increased in the wake of marijuana legalization, a trend likely to capture the attention of policy makers and enforcement agencies. For instance, one study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs surveyed some 3 million 7th-11th grade students in California and found “significant increases” in both past-30-day and lifetime use of cannabis across all demographic groups post-legalization.
By that analysis, students were 18 percent more likely to consume cannabis post-legalization.
To ensure that your business is fully compliant with California laws and local ordinances, consult our experienced team of cannabis attorneys today.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, ancillary companies, patients, doctors and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
Kids and cannabis: California dispensaries lack adequate screening to keep out minors, study finds, Sept. 1, 2021, University of Southern California