Is it legal? Check the licenses of cannabis sellers with new QR codes

Legal cannabis retailers in California are being encouraged to place QR codes in their front windows for customers to verify their licenses.

California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control launches new campaign to inform customers of licensed retailers


With the proliferation of unlicensed cannabis storefronts across the state — and a deadly vaping outbreak linked to the vast illegal market — a new campaign is making it easier than ever for customers to buy from legitimate dispensaries.

Licensed cannabis retailers are now posting unique QR codes at front entrances that can be quickly scanned by smartphones to verify status.

When scanned through the phone’s camera, the QR code automatically links to the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control’s online license search. The retailer’s license status is displayed, as well as its address and location to protect against counterfeits.

“We believe licensed retailers will benefit from a recognizable emblem distinguishing them as a licensed business in the community,” said Bureau Chief Lori Ajax. “We also want to provide consumers with the best information possible so they can determine which licensed California cannabis retailers carry products that are tracked, tested, and legal.”

Many illegal storefronts have the look of legitimacy and also sell brand name cannabis products that are counterfeit, sometimes making it difficult for customers to distinguish regulated from unregulated businesses.

Much of the vaping crisis that sickened people across the country during the last half of 2019 has been tied to the illegal cannabis market — notably cartridges that contained the additive vitamin E acetate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report the outbreak has led to 2,561 hospitalizations and 55 confirmed deaths from June to Dec. 27.

The outbreak peaked in September, although public health officials warn the phenomenon is not over and new cases are still being reported.

The state Bureau of Cannabis Control and local law enforcement have been cracking down on illegal storefronts, although licensed businesses have complained that the effort has not been strenuous enough.

On Dec. 20, El Cajon police raided an illicit dispensary on Broadway operating within 300 feet of Bostonia Language Academy, an elementary school. Four employees were arrested, and seven customers inside at the time were released at the scene. The search yielded 322 pounds of marijuana and THC-infused products, police said.

The city of San Diego is still currently the only jurisdiction in the county with licensed recreational cannabis storefronts, while some other areas allow medical dispensaries.