Cannabis Sales and Age Verification: F.L.A.G. Methodology
February 26, 2018
By: Cody Stiffler, VP of Government Affairs, BioTrackTHC
Although Jeff Sessions recently rescinded the Cole Memorandum, the directive of keeping cannabis out of the hands of minors is still a very real concern for State and Federal authorities. As a business operator, manager, or license holder, it’s your responsibility to ensure that proper cannabis sales and age verification practices are implemented and maintained to prevent possible federal interference with our thriving industry or even local interference for your thriving business! Many in the industry have viewed this as an operational hazard and for that reason; we have prepared some helpful information for cannabis retailers in all states to prevent the sale of product to minors at the dispensary point of sale!
Having several years’ experience in the service industry, I learned a lot in the way of age verification. One of the practices I often used is referred to as the F.L.A.G. methodology. This technique was taught to me when I was still new to the cannabis industry and I’ve used it throughout my years as a way to teach managers, business owners, and their employees, how to handle these situations.
So, what is the cannabis sales and age verification F.L.A.G. methodology?
F = FEEL
- Have person remove the ID from their wallet or plastic holder (never accept a laminated document)
- Feel for information cut-out or pasted on (especially near photo and birth date areas)
- Feel the texture – most driver’s license should feel smooth, or (depending on your State) they will have an identifying texture.
L = LOOK
- Look for the State seals or watermarks; these seals are highly visible without any special light.
- Look at the photograph. Hairstyles, eye makeup and eye color can be altered, so focus your attention on the person’s nose and chin as these features don’t change. When encountering people with beards or facial hair, cover the facial hair portion of the photo and concentrate on the nose or ears.
- Look at the height and weight. They should reasonably match the person.
- Look at the date of birth and do the math! Pre-printed age charts can be helpful.
- Compare the age on the ID with the person’s apparent age. For example, if the ID says the person is 22, but they only look 17, do not accept the ID no matter how genuine it looks.
- Look at the expiration date. If the ID has expired, it is not acceptable.
- Make it a point to keep copies of State ID’s in a book somewhere in your facility for easy reference. These books can be purchased online for a fraction of what any subsequent fine or penalty will cost you, and should serve as part of your standard operating procedures to reference the book when employees are in doubt.
A = ASK
- Ask questions of the person, such as their middle name, zodiac sign, or year of high school graduation. Ask them the month they were born. If they respond with a number, it is possibly because they are lying. If the person is with a companion, ask the companion to quickly tell you the person’s name. Any hesitation means they could be lying.
- Ask the person to sign their name, and then compare signatures.
G = GIVE BACK
- If the ID looks genuine, give the ID back to the customer and make the sale. If the ID is phony or altered, you should still return the ID.
Additional Information that may be useful in regards to cannabis sales and age verification:
- 21 is the typical age limit for recreational sales, but make sure you verify this with your State’s regulatory authority.
- You should ask for ID from any customer who looks under 40 years of age. In states like Colorado, you have to check the ID no matter how old they look.
- If you ask for and see that it’s legally acceptable before you serve the customer, you can defend yourself against a charge of selling cannabis to an underage person.
A legally acceptable ID is one document that contains all of the following:
- Issued by a government agency (such as federal, state, country
- or city)
- Name and signature of the person
- Date of birth of the person
- Physical description of the person
- Photograph of the person
- Currently valid (in other words, not expired)
Examples of acceptable documents include:
- State Issued driver’s license
- State Issued ID card
- Out-of-state driver’s license or ID card (with photo)
- S. Passport
- S. Military I.D.
In most states, the law allows you to accept all of the above documents. However, you can set a policy that is more stringent than the law, if you’d like (for example, “We only accept State-issued driver’s licenses.”) Remember, you have the legal right to refuse service to anyone who cannot produce adequate ID.
This industry, although swiftly growing, is still very new and there are several compliance best practices that continue to evolve. By implementing these best practices and training your staff to follow these simple rules, licensees can rest easy knowing that their establishment will avoid any possible fines or penalties and continue to show regulators that they are a legitimate business with the best intentions. Demonstrating this type of behavior is the only way the cannabis industry will continue to thrive and survive. It takes everyone involved to make this industry work and prove that it can be done safely. As I’m sure anyone in the industry would agree; we have zero intention of giving the federal government any reason to give us a hard time.
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