ID Checking Best Practices for Marijuana Dispensaries
Posted on: September 22nd, 2021
As of April 2021, 18 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana for people over the age of 21. Each state sets its own limits for how much product customers can buy at one time. However, all states must require customers to present valid identification that proves their age and refuse to let minors into their dispensaries.
Why Dispensaries Must be Vigilant About ID Verification
Failure to verify the age of customers and anyone else present in their place of business can lead to significant penalties for marijuana dispensaries. Much like a bar or restaurant running afoul of the Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control, allowing minors to purchase marijuana or even be on the premises can result in major fines and/or license suspensions.
Below is an overview of some of the penalties in various states for failing to verify age and ID verification of customers in dispensaries:
- Alaska: Penalties as high as $50,000 for repeat offenders (third or subsequent violation)
- California: Up to $5,000 per violation for licensed establishments and $30,000 per violation for unlicensed establishments
- Maine: Up to $100,000 per license violation, including the potential for suspension or revocation of existing license(s).
- Oregon: A first-time, unintentional sale, to a minor may result in a 30-day license suspension or a fine of $4,950.
What Really Happens When a Marijuana Dispensary Scans an ID?
Some dispensaries use a scanner to track customer IDs before completing a purchase. Taking this approach understandably causes many people concern because they fear the government will learn of their marijuana purchases. Others worry about associates or employers learning about their cannabis use.
Additionally, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, making some uneasy about the prospect of having a dispensary employee scan their driver’s license or identification card.
ID scanners read the information stored in the magnetic strip located on the back of drivers’ licenses and several other types of identification. The scanner then displays the customer’s true age. This eliminates the need for employees to do math on the spot to determine if the customer is indeed at least 21.
ID scanners are most prevalent in large cities, and there is a good reason for that. City governments may require dispensaries to have them and impose large fines if they do not comply. Some shops willingly choose to invest in the scanners to provide an extra layer of protection against selling to underage customers.
A common practice among law enforcement agencies is to recruit 18 to 20-year old undercover customers who go into a cannabis dispensary claiming to have forgotten their ID. Shops that sell to them anyway receive an unwelcome visit along with a fine and possibly other consequences on top of it. To avoid this, some dispensaries check IDs manually and run them through an ID scanner.
ID Scanners Allow Some Dispensaries to Collect Too Much Personal Data
As one of the first two states to legalize recreational marijuana, Colorado also passed Amendment 64 that prohibited dispensary employees from asking for anything beyond a driver’s license or identification card to complete their transaction. Amendment 64 also directs pot shops not to store private customer data.
Unfortunately, some disregard the amendment and hold onto customer names and contact information for marketing purposes. They may even sell the information to other companies in the cannabis industry. Dispensaries willing to bend Amendment 64 are also more likely to accept credit cards for purchases even though they are legally not supposed to. They get around this prohibition by using the name of a holding company that appears on credit card statements as an alternative health store.
Why Consumer Advocates Tell People to Insist on Manual Verification at Pot Shops
One of the original arguments in favor of ID scanners was that they would eliminate human errors. Most employees at marijuana dispensaries make little more than minimum wage and may not put the effort into age verification that their employer would like. After all, it is the employer’s cannabis business that is on the line, not their own. As the use of ID scanners has grown across the United States and Canada, privacy concerns have grown along with it.
Privacy advocates encourage people to use cash when buying weed and to provide only the minimum information required to prove they are of legal age to purchase it. The only problem is that people cannot use cash when purchasing marijuana online.
Ordering cannabis online has become extremely popular, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. People place their order online and then a dispensary employee delivers it to them in their vehicle during curbside pickup. Home delivery is also available in some areas. Employees must physically check the ID to make sure it matches with what customers upload to their profile.
Just like any other business, hackers can breach customer data stored in the computer program of a marijuana dispensary and that information can get into the wrong hands. People may even find themselves denied entry to another country if a record of their marijuana purchase follows them to the border. This is true even when they purchased it legally in their home country.
A Physical ID Checking Guide Offers a Better Solution
Although people are not supposed to cross state lines to purchase marijuana and then bring it back to a state where it is not legal, this happens all the time. Dispensary clerks then face the challenge of knowing how to spot a fake ID from multiple states.
The USA & Canada ID Checking Guide offers an in-depth description and examples of what to look for on a legitimate ID to ensure the dispensary is not selling to underage customers. Using a physical manual instead of a scanner can even increase business because most customers will not feel anxious about it.
The Alcohol & Beverage Control (ABC) Commissions and marijuana enforcement agencies in most states recommend and rely on the ID Checking Guide. Published for over 50 years, the book helps communities enforce age restrictions on controlled substances.
Many states choose to use the ID Checking Guide as a training tool and a give-away item when they make on-site inspections of places that sell marijuana, tobacco and alcohol such as retailers, bars and restaurants. For marijuana dispensaries serious about protecting their businesses and licenses, the original ID Checking Guide is a reliable and trustworthy means of providing access control in their establishments.