The move to legalize cannabis in the United States has rapidly progressed in recent years. In the last year, Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, New York, and South Dakota legalized the sale of cannabis for recreational adult use, with South Dakota and Mississippi also approving medical-use initiatives. Currently, sixteen states including Washington, D.C have legal adult-use cannabis markets, while 37 states allow cannabis to be dispensed for medical treatments.
This progression of state legislation has significantly contributed to the industry’s growth. Cannabis market research firm, BDSA, shared their findings that the legal cannabis industry in the US grew faster in 2020 than their original projected figure of $16.1 billion, potentially reaching an estimated $18 billion.
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the legal cannabis market has seen strong growth in both recreational and medical marijuana sales across mature market states due to increasing consumer demand. BDSA continues that by the end of 2021, the US industry is forecast to reach $24 billion, with projections that over 3 million new consumers will purchase cannabis in licensed stores in 2021.
As the legal market continues to grow, it becomes paramount for licensed vendors to prevent underage individuals from obtaining their products. Whether they operate in person or distribute products using courier delivery, dispensaries must comply with age restriction regulations, placing necessary age confirmation checks to confirm that their customer is of legal age.
Repercussions of Cannabis Sales to Underaged Individuals
Generally, cannabis sales are allowed only to individuals aged 21 and above. Typically, licensed dispensaries require their customers to present an official form of identification to confirm their claimed age.
When underaged individuals get their hands on cannabis products, the illegal purchaser and the dispensary could be subject to corresponding sanctions. Depending on state laws, cannabis sales to minors can get dispensaries penalized with fines, incarceration, suspension, or revocation of their operating licenses.
Examining a customer’s provided ID in person can be challenging as this practice relies on untrained store clerks to review and assess manually whether an identity credential is a forgery.
Cannabis merchants must be able to trust that the person purchasing their products is who they claim to be and that their declared age is accurate.
Sales to minors can also cost dispensaries their reputations and negatively impact their support by suppliers and creditors. Consequently, cannabis merchants must implement necessary security measures to ensure they transact only with legitimate persons who meet the minimum required age.
Online Age Gates do not Prevent Minors from Purchasing Online
Currently, online sales of marijuana are difficult since the industry operates primarily as a cash-only service, and federal restrictions define shipping cannabis even from a licensed dispensary as a felony. For these reasons, some cannabis vendors have launched courier-based deliveries. When vendors do offer a website to initiate such deliveries, verifying a person’s age before dispatching the product becomes trickier since the dispensary cannot physically see the person or easily validate the authenticity of the presented identity credential.
Traditional online age verification methods typically involve using an age gate, which is a virtual barrier intended to keep people of certain age groups out of a website. Age gates often come in the form of a pop-up message on the screen, asking the user if they are 21 years of age or older, or requiring them to enter their birthdate to gain website access.
However, it is often easy to get past age gates, especially if there are no additional processes to confirm that the information entered by the user is legitimate. One can simply lie about their age without worrying that the website will ask for proof of their birth date.
Additionally, a recent study on the use of age gates in alcohol websites found that some sites enable multiple attempts for users, allowing them to enter as many dates of birth before eventually gaining access to the site.
Age gates are not enough to prevent minors from obtaining cannabis from legal online vendors. Dispensaries must replace these traditional forms of age confirmation with more robust methods to confirm a customer’s age more effectively.
Improve Remote Age Verification with Biometric Technology
Facial biometric identity verification and automated identity document authentication are ideal replacements for conventional age checks. These modern technologies can validate a customer’s claimed age and identity, in addition to automatically confirming the authenticity of the presented government-issued credential in just a few moments.
With a commonly used camera-enabled mobile device, the user can simply take a selfie and complete an anti-spoofing active liveness detection check to complete the biometric identity proofing process. Moreover, the customer can use the same mobile device to quickly snapshot their driver’s license and submit it for automated driver’s license authentication.
Driver’s licenses are among the most widely used forms of identification that bear the person’s name, photo, and birthday. After the automated system validates the genuineness of the ID, the service can provide real-time data on the customer’s birthday and age at the time of purchase. Once the age has been verified at onboarding, purchase and delivery friction is eliminated for the rest of the customer’s journey as they do not need to re-verify their birthday or go through age gates before and after subsequent purchases.
With growing demand for cannabis products for recreational and medical use, as well as the possibility of federal legalization in the US, it becomes increasingly imperative for vendors to implement effective age verification methods to prevent underaged individuals from obtaining their products.
Relying on inadequate age confirmation processes is not only detrimental for dispensaries but to the entire marijuana industry as well. Ineffective age screening could set back the legalization progress achieved in recent years.
Proof™ by authID provides biometric certainty to remote identity proofing and age verification for the sale of age-restricted products. It harnesses mobile technology, anti-spoofing liveness confirmation, and biometric matching of a selfie to verified credentials to speed up customer conversions and weed out fraudulent identities. Proof™ offers robust identity document authentication of 1,500+ government IDs and non-chip passports from 200 countries, connections to government registries, and American, Canadian or Mexican driver’s license authentication.
Schedule a Demo with authID
authID.ai is a provider of an Identity as a Service (IDaaS) platform that delivers a suite of secure, mobile, biometric identity solutions, available to any vertical, anywhere. Cannabis dispensaries can ensure that they transact only with legitimate customers as authID‘s services confirm a person’s claimed identity and age, as well as validate the authenticity of their identity credentials. Contact authID today at 1 (516) 778-5639 or click here to schedule a demo.