Selling to Minors, Pre-Paid Debit Cards, Shipping to All States – Ilegal Cannabis Shops Are Booming Online

October 2, 2023 ·

In recent years, the rise of online cannabis dispensaries, particularly in states where cannabis is legal for medical and recreational use, has been remarkable. The New York Times looked at how this surge in online dispensaries has revolutionized the cannabis industry, providing numerous benefits. Nevertheless, the expanding legalization of cannabis in the United States has widened the marijuana market, raising concerns about potential accessibility to minors.

Benefits of Online Cannabis Shops

First and foremost, online dispensaries provide customers with the convenience of shopping from the comfort of their homes. This allows individuals to effortlessly purchase their favorite cannabis strains without ever leaving their sofas. Consequently, even those residing in remote areas can easily access marijuana and deliver it directly to their doorsteps. This unparalleled convenience is a primary driver behind the growth of online dispensaries.

Furthermore, online cannabis retailers offer a significantly broader range of strains than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. Traditional stores are confined to stocking strains based on local market demand, while online dispensaries can source products from across the globe. This diverse selection enables customers to explore new cannabis strains and identify the ones that best suit their preferences and requirements.

Online dispensaries also afford privacy to customers who prefer to avoid the visibility associated with entering physical dispensaries. This is particularly crucial for medical marijuana patients who wish to maintain the confidentiality of their healthcare needs. Online dispensaries have enabled individuals to purchase cannabis without any attached stigma. 

In addition, online dispensaries have streamlined access to educational resources related to marijuana usage. Most online dispensaries furnish comprehensive product descriptions, information on each strain’s benefits, and the optimal consumption methods.

This educational aspect has simplified the decision-making process for newcomers, enabling them to make informed choices and discover the strains that align with their preferences.

Lastly, online dispensaries have emerged as significant contributors to the economic landscape of the cannabis industry. They have generated many employment opportunities, from delivery drivers to customer support personnel and web developers. This growth has not only expanded the cannabis sector but also created fresh economic prospects for individuals across the globe.  Popular social media sites like Instagram are very popular to find online cannabis plugs or sellers.

Given the continuous surge in cannabis’s popularity, it is no shock that the industry is experiencing robust growth, with many businesses offering diverse products and services. Among the most convenient avenues for obtaining cannabis today are online dispensaries. These Online platforms offer time and effort savings and present a broader array of products that can be challenging to come by in brick-and-mortar stores.

Easy Cannabis Access for Minors – A Major Drawback of Online Cannabis Shops

The 2022 Monitoring the Future survey conducted by the National Institute of Health reported that 6.3% of 12th graders, 2.1% of 10th graders, and 0.7% of 8th graders had engaged in daily marijuana use in the past 30 days.

Additionally, multiple studies have illuminated the ease with which underage individuals can purchase alcohol, cigarettes, and electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) through online channels, underscoring the inadequacy of age verification systems employed by online vendors.

In this context, the research examined age verification processes and the potential for youth access to online marijuana dispensaries.

Keeping in mind these numbers are all pre-rescheduling, and as has mentioned before, lowering the punishment for getting caught for illegally selling cannabis online will only incentivize more illicit shops and players to go online and try to make a quick profit.  The problem will get bigger, not smaller, with cannabis being rescheduled from 1 to 3 on the CSA.

The Result

The research analyzed the age verification policies and practices of 80 online dispensaries in 32 different states that catered to American customers. The study unveiled that approximately 18.8 percent of these dispensaries, or nearly one in five, did not mandate formal age verification throughout the purchasing process.

Furthermore, the research highlighted that more than 80 percent of these dispensaries accepted “nontraceable” payment methods, such as prepaid cards or cash, allowing young individuals to conceal their transactions effectively, as observed by the authors.

Among the dispensaries examined, nearly one-third permitted interstate deliveries. Remarkably, 95 percent of these dispensaries extended their delivery services to states with differing marijuana regulations from the home state of the online dispensary. Additionally, a small fraction, five percent of the dispensaries, offered discounts to students.  Interstate commerce for legal cannabis is a big topic of full federal legalization, as it would allow for economies of scale in the legal cannabis industry.

The Context

Healthcare authorities have raised concerns about the impact of marijuana consumption on the developing brain, particularly in an era marked by heightened drug potency and widespread legalization. Data from a 2022 survey backed by the National Institutes of Health reveals that in 2021, 6.3 percent of 12th graders reported daily cannabis use, alongside 2.1 percent of 10th graders and 0.7 percent of eighth graders.

Additionally, the survey highlights that approximately one-third of high school seniors experimented with marijuana at least once in 2021, while this figure stood at 20 percent for 10th graders and 8.3 percent for eighth graders.

Interestingly, the prevalence of marijuana use in these age groups experienced a decline during the pandemic. One proposed hypothesis is that young individuals encountered greater challenges in acquiring drugs, including marijuana, and consuming them without supervision during this period.

The Way Forward

The authors of the study pointed out that online marijuana sales, coupled with convenient shipping options, could potentially facilitate easier access to the drug for minors. In their concluding remarks, they stressed the importance of implementing rigorous age-verification protocols for online cannabis purchases and establishing stringent oversight of online marijuana dispensaries to safeguard the well-being of youth.

In the meantime, they also emphasized the need for pediatricians and caregivers to be vigilant regarding the widespread accessibility of online dispensaries and the potential for marijuana distribution to minors.


The rise of online marijuana dispensaries has brought about significant changes and challenges in cannabis accessibility, particularly for young individuals. The concerns surrounding underage access to marijuana, coupled with the evolving nature of the cannabis industry, underscore the need for effective age-verification measures and robust oversight of online dispensaries.

As we move forward, policymakers, regulators, and the industry must collaborate to develop and enforce strict age-verification procedures to protect youth from accessing marijuana through online channels. Simultaneously, healthcare professionals, caregivers, and parents must remain aware of the widespread availability of online dispensaries, working together to ensure the responsible and safe use of cannabis products, especially among minors.

Balancing the evolving cannabis market with the protection of our youth is a vital task that requires ongoing vigilance, research, and cooperation among all stakeholders involved. (Full Story)

In category:Dispensaries
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