Study: California’s licensed cannabis stores are steering clear of minors

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

A unique study commissioned by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) suggests that California’s licensed cannabis stores are managing to keep minors at bay.

The findings signal a positive outcome for California’s cannabis industry, which vowed to strictly serve the adult consumer demographic when legalization occurred almost five years ago.

“Licensed [cannabis] retailers are clearly keen to follow the rules,” said one of the Institute’s research scientists, Angela Eichelberger.

“They’re aware that the industry hasn’t won everybody over yet, and they don’t want to get shut down,” added Eichelberger, who authored the report in collaboration with professionals from the University of Chicago and University of Minnesota.

Study finds some of California’s licensed cannabis stores breached state law

Although the findings of this investigation into youth exposure among California’s licensed cannabis stores were overly positive, the study did highlight isolated violations of state law at a handful of legal retail stores. For example, dispensary workers distributing free edibles samples was one of the main ways in which state law was breached.

Upon discovering this, the team of researchers from IIHS dished out advice to shield minors from the lure of California’s legal weed industry. Nonetheless, the studys authors noted that California’s cannabis market is brimming with illegally-operating unlicensed retailers. Because of this, underage consumers are still able to get their hands on bud at a fraction of the state’s stores.

Store owners who are caught offering cannabis to someone below the age of 21 without a doctor’s recommendation could face a six-month stint behind bars. Moreover, anyone caught violating California’s cannabis law in this way could also risk a first-offense fine of $500.

The rules are especially strict in Los Angeles, where licensed cannabis stores may have their license confiscated or suspended if they so much as welcome someone below the age of 21 through their doors.

California’s illicit cannabis market is bagging a great deal of young consumers

While California’s legal cannabis market may be one of the most successful on the planet, let alone in the U.S., the illicit “black market” is still going strong. In fact, the prospect of dismantling California’s illegal cannabis market is bleak, what with the hefty cost of licensing deterring many retailers from abiding by the law.

There really are no limits to how far illicit dealers will go in order to earn their dollar. Black market dealers are often seen serving minors, many of whom turn to illicit sellers as a last resort. Unfortunately, lack of regulations and taxes makes it difficult to track such transactions, thus posing a risk for public health and safety.

Notwithstanding the fact that legal sales haven’t managed to stamp out the illegal market just yet, cannabis lobbyists say that the IIHS study findings offer recently-legal states, such as New Mexico and New York, with an opportunity to learn and follow in California’s footsteps.