Summary: A study published in JAMA Pediatrics reveals that 18.8% of online cannabis sellers do not require age verification, with 84% offering nontraceable payment methods and 28% providing an out-of-state delivery option, potentially enabling underage individuals to access cannabis products.
Lack Of Age Verification on Online Cannabis Platforms Raises Concerns
A recent study, highlighted in a Healio News report and published in JAMA Pediatrics, has brought to light concerning data about online cannabis sales, revealing that nearly 19% of online cannabis sellers do not implement age verification protocols. The study, which involved 80 sellers, also found that a significant 84% offered nontraceable payment methods, which could potentially assist underage individuals in concealing their purchases, and 28% provided an out-of-state delivery option.
The research was conducted between July 1, 2022, and June 15, 2023, utilizing a list of Google search terms to identify online cannabis dispensaries catering to U.S. customers. The researchers collected data on various attributes of the sites, such as user verification methods both upon entering the website and at checkout. However, it is unclear whether the researchers distinguished between licensed cannabis dispensaries, which operate within a state-regulated market, and online-only businesses selling processed hemp products.
Of the websites studied, 70% prompted users to confirm they were of legal age by clicking “yes,” while 3.8% requested a specific birth date. However, none required verified age documentation to access the website. A further 66.3% required age verification at the point of purchase or upon receipt of a cannabis product. The options for verification varied, with half accepting government-issued identification, 26.3% accepting a medical cannabis identification number, and 10% accepting a self-reported birth date.
The study also highlighted the variety of products available, with 92.5% of the dispensaries offering vapes, 93.8% offering edibles, 53.3% offering nonalcoholic beverages, and 78.7% offering chocolates. Delivery options were also explored, with 67.5% of sellers offering local delivery, 66.3% offering pickup, and 27.5% offering out-of-state delivery. Notably, 95% indicated they could deliver to states with different cannabis laws than the state where the dispensary was located.
The researchers expressed surprise at the offers to ship across states and the vague language used on many websites. The study underscores the urgent need for better regulations and consumer awareness regarding the difference between hemp-derived products and regulated cannabis products, especially to prevent them from being accessed by children.
Why It Matters: The lack of stringent age verification and the availability of nontraceable payment methods on online cannabis platforms pose a significant risk, potentially enabling underage individuals to access cannabis products, which could have legal and health implications.
Potential Implications: This revelation could prompt regulatory bodies to tighten controls and implement stricter guidelines for online cannabis sales, ensuring that age verification is mandatory and that nontraceable payment methods are scrutinized. It may also spur discussions about the ethical responsibilities of online cannabis sellers and the need for a standardized regulatory framework to safeguard against underage sales.
And we would like to know how can regulatory bodies effectively enforce age verification protocols on online cannabis platforms to prevent underage access?
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