Legalization Keeps Cannabis Away from Teens

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In the six months since recreational cannabis was legalized in Colorado, the naysayers have been shouting “what about the children?” Convinced that more young people and teenagers were going to be giving the wacky weed a whirl, prohibitionists have had their panties in a bunch.

It probably won’t help them relax, but the rest of us can breathe easy: no Colorado dispensaries have been found to sell cannabis to minors.

According to local media, there have been twenty undercover compliance sting operations, sixteen of which took place in Denver. And each and every time, the businesses being checked refused to sell cannabis to the individual under the age of 21.

These findings, while based on a small number of compliance checks, are very promising for the future of cannabis legalization. As cannabis becomes a legal, regulated product, it will be more and more difficult for minors to find access to it.

Of course, just as prohibition didn’t stop anyone from using cannabis, being refused service at retail dispensaries isn’t going to stop teenagers from finding and trying cannabis recreationally. Teenagers will likely still be able to source cannabis on the black market, just as they do with alcohol and tobacco products.

Of course, cannabis legalization is probably making it a little harder to buy cannabis on the black market. When there is a decreasing profit margin due to substantial retail competition, there’s little point in risking the criminal charges associated with illegally selling cannabis on the black market.

There will always be someone willing to risk a fine for $40 and high-fives from some surly teenagers in the poorly-lit parking lot of a liquor store. Unlike with alcohol and tobacco, however, there don’t need to be those shady stores that sell directly to young people. Through rigorous self-policing and strict adherence to policy, Denver and Colorado dispensaries are doing their part to discourage illegal cannabis transfers. Only time will tell if the state’s perfect record of refusing sale to minors will last, but there’s reason to hope it will.

If you listen hard, you may just be able to hear some teenagers around the state of Colorado sobbing. “Thanks a lot, cannabis legalization. Now my grandma has better weed than I do.”

Photo Credit: Kamyar Adl under (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr