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The Majority of Recreational Cannabis Dispensaries in California Comply With ID Check Requirements

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Aug 17, 2021   
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The vast majority (96.8 percent) of recreational, adult-use dispensaries in California require an ID check before a purchase, as per state law, according to a new study.

However, the research letter, published in JAMA Pediatrics, also found that 67.9 percent of dispensaries failed to display signs and posters that communicated the age limit of buying cannabis, which is the law in California.

Compliant cannabis

To get an accurate account of how many recreational dispensaries were complying with Californian cannabis laws, the research team from the University of California, San Diego, audited 700 such dispensaries across the state between June 15 and September 15, 2019.

The researchers recorded whether the dispensaries were adhering to several requirements of recreational cannabis retailers, including whether a license was displayed, whether any products and pre roll packaging appealed to children, and if the retailer offered free samples.

Overall, 67.3 percent of recreational dispensaries displayed their license, 35.6 percent sold products that were deemed appealing to children, and 21.6 percent offered free samples to take away (16.1 percent offered free samples to consume on-site).

Product promotions were also common; 62.9 percent of retailers provided first-time purchase discounts and 48.6 percent provided weekly or daily deals. Just over half of dispensaries (55.8 percent) provided branded marketing materials and 38.9 percent promoted the health benefits of marijuana.

While some of the findings show California’s adult-use dispensaries to be largely compliant with the state’s cannabis laws, the authors of the study stress that further enforcement is needed to protect exposure to minors.

“Although RCDs [recreational cannabis dispensaries] in California were generally compliant with checking IDs, most RCDs did not check them until customers entered the premises,” the researchers wrote in their paper. “Considering the low rate of compliance with age-limit signage, minors may unintentionally or even intentionally enter RCDs.”

“As more states liberalize cannabis, greater emphasis and resources must be dedicated to enforcement of random compliance checks to ensure that regulations aiming to minimize access and exposure to minors have the intended effects,” the authors conclude.

Cannabis in California

California opened up its legal recreational cannabis sector at the start of 2018, but jurisdictions still had the option to prohibit the substance. 

By 2019, around 49 percent of the state’s counties and cities – a combined area that encompasses roughly 57 percent of the state’s population – allowed some form of retail sale of marijuana.

Since then, it’s thought that the number of jurisdictions permitting cannabis retail has slightly increased and further expansion of the legal system is expected.

Yet the illegal cannabis market in California is still thought to be around five times the size of the legal market. In 2019, it was estimated that $8.7 billion of the total $12 billion made in California cannabis sales went to the unregulated, clandestine sector.


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