How to Spot an Unlicensed Dispensary

When you buy cannabis in a dispensary, you have every reason to expect that it was produced by a licensed company, and subjected to state lab testing. This, after all, is the promise of legalized cannabis. Unfortunately, some brick-and-mortar stores that sell cannabis are not licensed – they are storefronts for the illicit market. The products they sell may not be tested. Many products sold in unlicensed dispensaries contain unsafe levels of pesticides and heavy metals. Worse, some contain toxic additives like Vitamin E Acetate, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes is responsible for the serious lung illness EVALI. So how do you know if you’re in a licensed dispensary?

Here are some other signs to look out for:

ID check – All licensed dispensaries will require you to show government-issued ID before they let you in. That’s part of what ensures that no cannabis products are sold to underage persons. If nobody asks for your ID, that’s a worrying sign.

Signs – Most licensed dispensaries have visible, permanent signage facing the street, identifying themselves as cannabis dispensaries. If they’re trying to hide what they do, beware.

Taxes – Although there may be tax exemptions for medicinal cannabis, most legal dispensaries are required to charge sales and excise taxes on all the products they sell. Make sure you get a receipt and check to be sure the dispensary is charging taxes. If they’re not, they may be violating state law.

Selection – In most states, cannabis dispensaries are only allowed to sell cannabis products and accessories for cannabis. They are not allowed to sell nicotine products, alcoholic beverages, or empty vape cartridges.

Brands – If you’re shopping for a cannabis oil vape, beware of some of the common fake vape brands. If you see any of these on the shelf, chances are, the dispensary is unlicensed. Black market brands include: Dank Vapes, TKO, Mario Carts, Cereal Carts and many others. If you don’t know a brand, google it.

Your best bet is to check with your state’s cannabis regulator. Most of these agencies maintain websites that display the names and addresses of all licensed dispensaries. For example, both California and Michigan have sites that let you search for a dispensary’s name. If the store you’re visiting isn’t listed, it may not be licensed.

Learn more about lab testing here

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