Concern about minors having easier access to cannabis has been one of the tallest barriers to its legalization. A new study adds to the ample evidence suggesting that states with legal cannabis do not have higher use rates among minors. Some evidence even shows that recreational cannabis laws might curb underage use.
California’s Cannabis Stores Take Regulations Seriously
The latest study shows that 100% of cannabis retailers comply with state ID policies designed to prevent underage consumers from buying products. The study’s authors express some surprise regarding the perfect consistency throughout the state. However, they acknowledge that research shows dispensaries in Washington and Colorado also comply.
Preventing Underage Patrons From Purchasing Cannabis Products
At least two factors likely influence the success of ID policies. First, retailers face hefty fines and possible jail time for failing to follow strict laws about who can buy cannabis products. In California, a first violation can result in a $500 fine and up to 30 days in jail. The state uses decoys to test the system, and any store that doesn’t comply can lose its license.
Second, companies have designed retail stores to make it nearly impossible for underage shoppers to enter. Typically, the stores have waiting rooms where patrons can sit while employees check their IDs. Once cleared, they can enter the retail area of the store. This approach makes it easier for cannabis retailers to control who enters their stores and limits the number of people within the retail space, which likely prevents theft.
States With Recreational Cannabis Have Lower Underage Use
Somewhat surprisingly, legalizing recreational cannabis seems to reduce the amount of underage use within a state. States with recreational cannabis laws show a 9% decrease in frequent use by teenagers.
Researchers speculate that legalizing recreational cannabis could actually make it harder for underage users to access marijuana products. It’s possible that law-abiding stores make it harder for drug dealers to earn money. More local product goes to the licensed distributor instead of someone selling illegally. Also, more adults who consume cannabis will choose retail stores that provide a wider range of products that have been tested for safety.
States that have not adopted recreational marijuana laws should consider whether prohibition truly benefits public health. The evidence suggests otherwise.