Age-Gating and Marketing Differences Between Storefront and Non-Storefront Cannabis Retailers


  • Joshua U. Rhee University of California, Irvine
  • Alisa A. Padon Public Health Institute
  • Lynn D. Silver Public Health Institute
  • Lingling Li University of California, Irvine
  • Ethan N. K. Nguyen University of California, Irvine
  • Jacob Paredes University of California, Irvine
  • David S. Timberlake University of California, Irvine


Objective: The study investigated whether California storefront and non-storefront cannabis retailers are adhering to online age-gating requirements and whether differences in website marketing practices exist. Methods: Websites of 134 storefront and 115 non-storefront licensed retailers were randomly selected. Bivariate associations were tested between retailer type and website marketing, age-gating methods, and presence of age-gating at various purchase stages. Results: Among the 200 (80.3%) websites with age-gating when entering, 182 (91%) employed an ineffective method where users click either “Yes” or “No” to confirm their age. Moreover, 49 (19.68%) websites lacked age-gating when entering. Amongst those requiring photo identification during checkout (n = 100, 40.16%), 97% allowed users to proceed after uploading an irrelevant image. Significantly more storefront retailers employed combined age-gating at entry, mandatory account registration, and age-gating during checkout than non-storefront retailers (X2 (1, N = 249) = 7.69, p < .01). Retailer websites frequently displayed “clean” labels (n = 200, 80.32%), followed by positive state claims (n = 198, 79.52%), physical health claims (n = 166, 66.67%), and mental health claims (n = 146, 58.63%). Significantly more storefront retailers displayed physical health claims (X2 (1, N = 249) = 7.52, p < .01) and health warnings than non-storefront retailers (X2 (1, N = 249) = 4.13, p = .04). Conclusions: Most cannabis retailers comply with age-gating requirements; however, methods employed are easily circumvented. Youths’ easy and unrestricted access to cannabis retailer websites may increase positive attitudes about cannabis and encourage use.


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