Pseudo-Underage Assessment of Compliance With Identification Regulations at Retail Marijuana Outlets in Colorado

J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2016 Nov;77(6):868-872. doi: 10.15288/jsad.2016.77.868.


Objective: Four states are creating a regulated industry for the retail sale of cannabis products. This pilot study assessed refusal rates of sales to underage-appearing individuals without valid identification (ID) at retail outlets in Colorado.

Method: State-licensed retail marijuana outlets (n = 20) in Colorado were included in the sample. Pseudo-underage assessment teams of a buyer and an observer visited each retail outlet once between 11 A.M. and 5 P.M. on four weekdays in August 2015. The observer entered first, performed an unobtrusive environmental scan, and recorded the outcome of the purchase attempt. The buyer attempted to enter the outlet and purchase a cannabis product. If asked for an ID, they did not present one. Once inside, if the clerk offered to sell cannabis, the buyer declined, saying they had insufficient cash, and departed.

Results: Most outlets sold both retail and medical marijuana (75%). All outlets (100%) asked the buyer to show an ID. Only one outlet was willing to sell marijuana to the pseudo-underage buyer after the buyer did not provide an ID (95% refusal rate). All outlets (100%) had posted signs stating that an ID was required for entry; approximately half had signs that only individuals 21 years of age or older could enter (55%) and how to properly use marijuana edibles (50%).

Conclusions: Compliance with laws restricting marijuana sales to individuals age 21 years or older with a valid ID was extremely high and possibly higher than compliance with restrictions on alcohol sales. The retail market at present may not be a direct source of marijuana for underage individuals, but future research should investigate indirect sales.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Benchmarking*
  • Colorado
  • Commerce / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Commerce / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Government Regulation
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Marijuana / economics*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Social Control, Formal / methods*


  • Medical Marijuana