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Do Dispensaries Share Information With the Government?

Personal identifiable information, PII for short, is at a high risk of being stolen these days. Malicious individuals are out there looking to steal people’s identities, drain their bank accounts, and worse. As such, keeping information like your name, age, birthday, address, and social security number safe — especially in today’s digital age — is of the utmost importance.

But what about the PII that is shared when you visit a medical or recreational cannabis dispensary? Is your information safe? Is this PII retained? And how it is utilized after your visit is over?

While some people may be concerned about this simply because they don’t want their information shared, others may be fearful of it being shared with government agencies or coming back on a background check. Seeing how many employers still frown upon the use of cannabis — it is easy to see why folks would be scared.

Below, we’ll explore the wild world of PII and answer some of the most frequently asked questions about how dispensaries deal with this information such as:

  • Why do dispensaries require IDs?
  • Will my dispensary visit show up on a background check?
  • What information do dispensaries retain?
  • How is the information retained by dispensaries used?
  • Can employers find out if I have a medical marijuana card?
  • Do dispensaries share customer information with the government?

Why Do Dispensaries Require IDs?

The main reason why dispensaries ask for your ID is to ensure that you are of age to make purchases in retail markets. For medical cannabis patients, dispensaries use your ID to verify that you are indeed the individual on the medical cannabis patient card.

In states like Oklahoma, you only need to show your ID on your initial visit to a medical cannabis dispensary. On subsequent visits, all that is required is your valid medical cannabis card. In the majority of states, dispensary staff only view your ID. However, in some states, age verification must take place digitally via an ID scanner. These states include Nevada, Missouri, New Jersey, and Illinois.

What Information Do Dispensaries Retain? 

At this time, there isn’t a single state that requires dispensaries to retain the PII of purchasing customers. However, that does not mean that some dispensaries do not retain said information. The most commonly retained information is name, age, gender, address, email, and phone number.

In Illinois, dispensaries cannot store customer PII. In Montana, businesses are only allowed to retain PII for up to 180 days.

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How Do Dispensaries Use The Information They Retain?

Businesses typically use PII retained during a dispensary visit to stay compliant and enhance their marketing strategies.

Every state imposes limitations on the amount of cannabis one can possess. Most states also impose restrictions on the amount you can purchase each day. Businesses retain PII and digitally add it to a centralized database shared with other businesses to prevent individuals from exceeding their state’s mandated purchasing limit.

Information retained for marketing is typically associated with your purchasing history. Dispensaries use it to customize the deals and discounts they send you to match your personal preferences.

Do Dispensaries Share Customer Information With the Government?

Of the four states that require digital ID scans, only New Jersey requires dispensaries to share that information with a government agency — the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission. These logs do not, however, contain any PII, only birthdates. This means there is no way to track that information back to the customer.

Can Employers Find Out if I Have a Medical Marijuana Card? 

Fortunately, because there is no requirement for any state to submit PII to government agencies, it is unlikely that your employer or potential employer would discover that you are a medical cannabis patient or have visited a retail dispensary. The only way a job would find that information is through a third-party.

Will My Dispensary Visit Show Up on a Background Check or Security Clearance?

No, your history with medical or recreational dispensaries and your purchases will not show on a security check or when applying for security clearances. However, it is common for security clearances to require interviews, which tend to include questions pertaining to drug use and purchases.

What About States With Government Agencies Overseeing Medical Cannabis Programs?

The only exception to your PII being shared with the government is if you live in one of the following states. This is because the following states maintain medical cannabis patient registries, which are centralized databases that specific oversight and regulatory agencies can access for patient information. Below, you can find all the states that are part of this exception and the regulatory agencies that have access to your PII:

  • Alabama – Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission
  • Arkansas – Arkansas Department of Health
  • District of Columbia – Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration
  • Florida – Florida Department of Health
  • Hawaii – State of Hawaii, Department of Health
  • Maryland – Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission
  • Minnesota – Minnesota Department of Health
  • Mississippi – Mississippi State Department of Health
  • New Hampshire – New Hampshire Department of Health & Human Services
  • North Dakota – North Dakota Department of Health
  • Ohio – Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program
  • Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania Department of Health
  • South Dakota – South Dakota Medical Cannabis Program
  • Utah – Utah Department of Health
  • West Virginia – WV Office of Medical Cannabis

In short, if you are a retail consumer, you are pretty safe when it comes to the government having your PII in association with cannabis. Whether you are a medical cannabis patient or a retail consumer, you can rest assured that your PII in relation to the herb is not accessible by employers, landlords, or your nosey neighbor next door! However, as noted above, some medical cannabis states grant government agencies access to your PII if you register as a medical cannabis patient.

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