This is Rob Hendrix with Cannabis Consulting Nationwide where I specialize in cannabis business consulting and advising. As you may know, I own a retail cannabis shop in the great State of Washington. Since opening in August of 2014, we have been successful, profitable, most importantly, violation free. Its this last point I would like to discuss today.

It is a felony to sell any products containing cannabis to a minor. Doesn’t matter if it’s intentional or an honest mistake, it’s an epic violation and a major crime. There is a bill floating around in our State legislature which would lessen the severity of selling to a minor accidentally, but frankly I am assuming this change in the current law will not move forward.

For now, Congress feels the need to stay on top of those unreliable pot shop owners!  Despite the bit of sarcasm in that last sentence, I take this very, very seriously. We talk about ID checks literally every day. It is a subject that cannot be overemphasized. One of the many issues you will run into when operating your dispensary is how to prevent underage cannabis use.

How we prevent underage cannabis sales at our dispensary

We have a list of acceptable forms of ID here in Washington State. And it is the law that no one under 21 can even be on the premises, let alone make a purchase. There are exceptions for minors who possess a legal medical card, but that’s a cumbersome discussion, so I’ll save it for another article. There are actually different rules pertaining to acceptable forms of ID for purchasing cannabis than tobacco and/or alcohol. It’s much more stringent for cannabis, of course!

At the end of the day, it is up to you to make sure you are ID’ing your customers and keeping records. If you follow your state’s regulations to a T, you will be safe in the eyes of the government.

Problems with ID’ing cannabis patients and customers

But here’s my problem with these rules pertaining to ID and what is acceptable or not. It is not a violation of the law to accept an unauthorized form of ID, or even choose not to ID a customer. It is only a violation of the law to allow minors to loiter on the premises and of course, it’s a violation, and felony, to sell cannabis or cannabis-infused products to a minor. Mey point is I am hearing shops are turning people away who possess an expired driver license or some other form of ID they deem unqualified even if the individual in question is obviously over the legal age of 21.

This is nuts! The laws in my state have been written put shop owners in a tough spot. They make you feel like ONLY individuals who possess and present an acceptable form of ID can be served, regardless of other evidence known to the employee or shop owner. Case in point; a shop near my store, in Yakima, Washington had a repeat customer with an expired driver’s license. Even though the shop employees knew his name and face, they refused to serve him. He was 62 years old! This is lunacy.

I will never attempt to minimize the importance of never, ever selling to a minor. This is a major violation. In the big picture, it’s a major component in our industry being accepted as a mainstream business. Many in opposition to the legalization of cannabis fear the “normalization” of cannabis can and will lead to an uptick in minor usage and consumption.

It is a critical part of our public relations battle to be seen as legitimate. To do this, we must accept the immense responsibility that running a retail cannabis shop entails. Having said that, one must remember that while selling to a minor is a violation of the law, it is not a violation to use your past experience and knowledge and common sense to determine that a customer is of age by means other than those stated in the law(s).

Be smart, be thorough and be ready to defend and stand behind your decision. It is on you to ensure that any individual standing in your retail establishment is not a minor, and is eligible to be served in your store.

I know how restrictive and suffocating my state’s regulatory framework is. I also know how it can make a person paranoid, always looking for threats to his/her livelihood. To a degree, this is wise. Always use your brain to do the right things and yes, follow the letter and the spirit of the law. This is your single best tool in the ongoing attempts to run your shop in a squeaky clean fashion.

You’ll be proud of the way you run your shop and you’ll sleep much better at night knowing you’re doing things the right way for all concerned. Especially a 62-year-old customer who has an expired ID!

We have a specific protocol we follow at Cannabis Central, my licensed dispensary in Washington State. The same procedure would probably work for your storefront as well. Here at CCN, I love sharing what’s worked for me with other players in the industry. Contact me if you want to chat more about this! I’d love to help teach you how to prevent underage cannabis use.