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Study Shows Online Marijuana Dispensary Sales Have Lax Age Oversight

Researchers from the Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York (Lake Success, New York) studied age-verification procedures and the potential for youth acquisition of marijuana through online dispensaries.

Their results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics and covered in The New York Times. They found and studied 80 online dispensaries in 32 states. Some of the findings:

  • 28 percent would deliver over state lines, all but one of them delivered to states with marijuana laws that differed from the state of origin.
  • 93 percent included cannabis electronic cigarettes and 94 percent included edibles.
  • 70 percent prompted users to confirm they were of legal age, and four percent asked for a specific birth date. None of them required age documentation to view products.
  • 66 percent required users to verify age to complete a purchase or as part of shipping on receipt of delivery. Half of the websites required age verification via a government-issued ID.
  • 18 percent did not require any formal age verification process.
  • 84 percent accepted non-traceable payment methods, such as cash, prepaid cards, or cryptocurrency.
  • Four of the dispensaries, or 5 percent, offered student discounts.

“Despite regulations, availability of marijuana products remains seemingly high, exacerbated by potential shipment across state lines,” the authors said. “It is imperative to require strict age verification procedures prior to cannabis purchases online and to establish stringent surveillance of online marijuana dispensaries to protect youth. Pediatricians and caregivers must be aware of the widespread availability of online dispensaries and potential dissemination of marijuana to minors.”

Though change may be coming, at a federal level in the United States, marijuana is still regulated as a Schedule I narcotic. States began taking matters into their own hands in 1996 when California became the first state to break with the federal government and allow medical use of the drug. Now, 38 states and Washington, D.C., allow it for medical use, and 22 states—led by Washington and Colorado in 2016—and Washinton, D.C., have either legalized marijuana or decriminalized adult use of it.

The patchwork of state laws and regulations, as well as likely changes at the federal level, presents challenges for security at companies growing and selling cannabis. And the growing acceptance of the drug’s use gives rise to many other societal challenges as well, such as how to test for sobriety or what impact it should have on security clearances and hiring practices. ASIS has been working on an ANSI standard on cannabis security, which is expected in late 2023 or early 2024.

Remarkably, these societal trends appear to have very limited impact on the levels of marijuana use by minors. The National Institute on Drug Abuse’s annual survey of drug use among minors showed that 20 percent of high school seniors had used marijuana in the last 30 days, and 12 percent of 10th graders and five percent of 8th graders had also used it in the last month.


Source: Miech, R. A., Johnston, L. D., Patrick, M. E., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2023). Monitoring the Future National Survey Results on Drug Use, 1975–2022: Secondary School Students. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan. Available at

Those numbers may seem high (no pun intended), but they are in line with what has been remarkably consistent use since the mid-1990s. Use took a slight dip in 2021, likely due to pandemic influences such as more parental oversight and less social interaction. The most recent numbers show a rebound toward historical norms.