News Report: California Cannabis Dispensary Regulations Prohibiting Minors Not Working As Hoped, According to Study

A USC-UC San Diego study released today found that California restrictions prohibiting children from cannabis dispensaries and associated cannabis marketing are not working as well as policymakers had hoped.

The study in JAMA Pediatrics evaluated just how regulations designed to protect minors have held up in the five years since voters legalized cannabis.

Research Letter
August 16, 2021

Assessment of Recreational Cannabis Dispensaries’ Compliance With Underage Access and Marketing Restrictions in California

JAMA Pediatr. Published online August 16, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2021.2508

The increasing availability of cannabis to adults through legalization of recreational cannabis dispensaries (RCDs) raises concerns regarding underage access and exposure to products and marketing. The American Academy of Pediatrics “strongly recommends strict enforcement of rules and regulations that limit access, marketing, and advertising to youth.”1 Currently, all legalizing states prohibit sales to minors and require an identification (ID) check, and most ban marketing activities appealing to children.2 However, little is known about whether cannabis retailers comply. We assessed the compliance of RCDs with underage access and marketing restrictions in California.

Researchers looked at 700 licensed cannabis dispensaries in California and found that many retail locations have inadequate screening processes, which allow minors to enter and view items that should be restricted to adults, 21 and older.

“Our data shows that youth can potentially be exposed to cannabis marketing and products despite California appearing to have tight laws,” said study co-author Rosalie Liccardo Pacula, a fellow at the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics and Elizabeth Garrett Chair in Health Policy, Economics and Law at the USC Price School of Public Policy. “As more states legalize cannabis, we need better mechanisms, including funding and agency authority for random compliance checks, to ensure that regulations are being followed — just as we did with tobacco.”

Dispensaries in California are required to screen for underage customers before they reach certain areas where cannabis marketing and products are on display. Age-limit signage is supposed to be clearly visible and an ID checkpoint can be on the exterior or interior, as long as it’s placed before the area where products are displayed.


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