Legality of Online Marijuana Sales Questioned

Canadian media are reporting a spike in black market marijuana sales online, as the country is poised to officially usher in legal recreational marijuana sales and possession.L.A. marijuana business lawyer

National news outlet CBS reported there are at least a dozen e-commerce websites unlawfully selling marijuana-infused products – primarily edibles – without requiring proof beyond a driver’s license and credit card and without any indication that to do so may be unlawful. Some marijuana sales websites even offer loyalty points the more weed you buy. Opposition Conservatives in Ottawa allege these illegal sales are especially dangerous for teenagers, who can potentially purchase these products online themselves with relative ease. Most of these products contain no warnings of possible effects. Politicians cited the case of a young girl who was hospitalized after ingesting marijuana-infused gummies. The concern is the black market will continue to thrive, undercutting what was the primary stated goal of passing a federal law allowing for recreational sales: To curb violence associated with criminal gangs profiting from illegal trafficking.

But it’s not just Canada that has a problem with e-commerce marijuana sales. Los Angeles marijuana lawyers recognize problems with online marijuana trade are even more complicated in the U.S., thanks to the federal law that still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I dangerous and addictive substance – despite the fact that 30 states plus Washington, D.C. allow it to be used and sold in some capacity or another. 

One study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in March found that Google searches in America for buying marijuana online ballooned by 300 percent between January 2005 and June 2017. Searches peaked at somewhere between 1.4 million and 2.4 million monthly. Researchers with San Diego State University’s School of Public Health expressed deep concern that anyone – particularly teens – could purchase marijuana from their phone, no matter what state they live in.

The highest volume of marijuana shopping searches were in Washington state, Oregon, Nevada and Colorado, where the drug has been legal for recreational purposes the longest. California is now among those states that allow marijuana to be possessed and sold for personal recreational use. However, the search volume for such purposes was still high everywhere in the country.

Roughly 40 percent of online marijuana purchase searches linked users to retailers who advertised mail-order cannabis that could be delivered via commercial parcel companies, U.S. Postal Service or privately-owned couriers.

As L.A. marijuana business attorneys and also marijuana criminal defense lawyers, it’s important to us that you know: Online sales of marijuana in the U.S. are NOT legal. This is true even in the states that have partially or fully legalized the drug. However, policing that has proved problematic. Marijuana delivery services are legal, but only because they operate in-state.

In addition to the potential for those under-21 to acquire the drugs, public officials are concerned that in states where the drug is lawful, such black market marijuana purchases aren’t taxed, so governments are deprived of the funds used to offset public health costs – which was part of the deal for most states and communities that chose to allow legal sales.

Public safety officials say they are exploring options to team up with providers of internet service to root out and eliminate marijuana dealers from the biggest search engines. In so doing, they say, illicit retailers would effectively lack access to most of their targeted consumers.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:

Illegal Online Purchases of Pot on the Rise, March 22, 2018, By Robert Preidt, HealthDay