Retailers taking too much personal information? Safety stickers? — Cannabis FAQs answered

marijuana faq from greenstate — personal information and safety labels

Tens of millions of Americans are either contemplating visiting or visiting cannabis retailers for the first time in their lives. You can bet they have lots of questions. So each Monday morning, GreenState answers the world’s most frequently asked questions about legal cannabis. We call it Cannabis FAQs.

Got a question for GreenState editor David Downs? Ask away in the below form.

Here’s this week’s burning questions:

I went shopping for the first time at Harvest off Mission in San Francisco. I was surprised at how much personal information they wanted from me. It’s not like a liquor store or a bar, where you just show your ID and get let in. I had to create an account or something and they took my photo. What gives?

Most stores are going way overboard and sucking up way too much personal information about customers. And it’s definitely spooking people who fear their activities are being somehow tracked or they’ll end up on some kind of list.

By law, stores need to hold onto a personal ID number for medical pot patients, but that’s it. That’s what Bureau of Cannabis Control director Lori Ajax told me in February. (The ID number is to make sure patients they don’t cycle around stores buying up a bunch of cannabis and shipping it out of state.) By law, they also have to videotape you.

At my nearest shop, The Green Cross, I saw a guy from England only grudgingly hand over his personal info the morning they started recreational sales. If the federal authorities found out the bloke was there, Customs could use it to deport him. “Illegal drug use” is grounds for denial of entry to, or removal from America.

For much longer, plenty of Californians have told me they didn’t want to get a medical marijuana recommendation for fear of “ending up on some list” — which makes you wonder what kind of country we’ve built here. (The chances of catching a federal case from a pot shop visit are pretty miniscule, Politifact concludes.)

The extensive sign-in process at most recreational stores is a holdover from the medical marijuana days, where you had to “join the collective” to shop. That meant providing all the info you would typically provide at a doctors office front desk, including name, address, phone, email, consent, etc. (That info is typically protected under state and federal health privacy laws like HIPAA , lawyers say. Still, retailers generally have a terrible record of protecting consumer data.)

Bottom line: Recreational legalization is only 65 days old and old medical habits die hard.

Fun fact: In Oregon, retailers are prohibited by law from keeping personal info.

A pending bill in California would prohibit selling California cannabis retail shoppers’ info to 3rd parties.

Voice your concerns to store owners, and your reps. If you feel uncomfortable, shop elsewhere. When shoppers vote with their dollars, retailers listen.

Got a cannabis question? Ask GreenState using this form.

What’s with all these stickers on my legal marijuana products saying, ‘This product has not been tested under California state law’? I thought legalization meant testing?

The testing part of legalization is being phased in this year. In the interim, retailers can sell stuff under the old system, where testing was more voluntary, or mandated at the city and county level.

If you want to ensure you’re buying tested product, shop in cities with mandatory medical marijuana testing, including Berkeley and San Jose. They beat the state to rigorous supply chain quality assurance, and now the state is following suit. Sometimes city rules are more strict than state rules.

But there’s a catch, product sold in Berkeley under that city’s stringent testing regime still have to have that ‘not been tested’ sticker, even if the manufacturer, and retailer did test them. That’s because no products have been tested under the new state system, which is just coming online.

That system involves making sure all the cannabis labs have met international standards for accuracy (ISO certification) and that all commercially grown marijuana goes through a licensed lab. We should start seeing the first products come out under the new system this summer and definitely by Fall.

Got a cannabis question? Ask GreenState using this form.