A recently published study in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics has shed light on the concerning ease with which minors can purchase marijuana through online dispensaries. The research delves into the age-verification policies among other lax policies, of 80 online dispensaries with locations across 32 states.
Lenient Age Verification:
The study’s findings are alarming, with 18.8 percent of the online dispensaries failing to require any formal age verification throughout the purchasing process1. This means that nearly one in five of these establishments permit minors to buy marijuana without any significant age-check measures.
Concealment of Payment:
More than 80 percent of these online dispensaries accepted “nontraceable” payment methods such as prepaid cards or cash, making it easy for young individuals to hide their transactions1. Notably, five percent of these online dispensaries provided student discounts, potentially further incentivizing young individuals to engage in marijuana purchases.
Furthermore, almost one-third of the dispensaries studied allowed delivery across state lines1. An astounding 95 percent of them offered delivery to states with varying marijuana laws compared to the originating state of the online dispensary1. Such practices can lead to regulatory inconsistencies and challenges in monitoring the sale of marijuana to minors.
Public Health Concerns:
Health officials have expressed significant concerns regarding the impact of marijuana use on the developing brains of minors, particularly in an era of increased drug potency and widespread legalization. A 2022 survey funded by the National Institutes of Health indicated about one-third of 12th graders had used marijuana at least once in 2021, along with 20 percent of 10th graders and 8.3 percent of 8th graders1. This study also found a concerning percentage of youth engaging in problematic marijuana use with 6.3 percent of 12th graders, 2.1 percent of 10th graders, and 0.7 percent of 8th graders reporting daily marijuana use in 20211.
The Call for Action:
Parents and professionals who work with youth must remain vigilant about the widespread availability of online dispensaries and the potential diversion of marijuana to minors. There is equally a great need for robust surveillance of online marijuana dispensaries to safeguard the well-being of minors, including implementing strict age verification procedures before allowing cannabis purchases online. In conclusion, the findings of this study underscore the pressing need for measures that address the significant vulnerabilities in the online marijuana retail industry, especially concerning minors.
- Terala, A., Sangiuolo, K., Milanaik R. (2023) Access to Marijuana by Minors Via Online Dispensaries. JAMA Pediatrics. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2023.3656