Published on March 14, 2019 by David Wylie

Pop-up age box not enough

Canadian cannabis growers are being warned by the federal government that the age gates on their websites are not enough to keep kids from seeing their content.

Business in Vancouver’s cannabis beat reporter Glen Korstrom broke the story this week.

He reported that Health Canada sent a letter on March 8 to all cannabis producers and cultivators warning about non-compliance online and saying a pop-up window asking visitors to enter their birthday is not enough to keep underage users out.

Isn’t it though?

An age-verification box is what other adult-only industries — including alcohol companies — use as standard. The language in the Cannabis Act around online access asks that “reasonable” steps are taken to ensure the promotion can’t be accessed.

The vast majority of cannabis businesses have done that through standard pop-up windows with 19+ messaging. That includes provincial government stores, retailers and producers.

So what is enough, and – more importantly – how intrusive can corporations be about our data privacy?

The answer is currently unclear.

Forced to adapt

Some have speculated it may even mean introducing software that asks consumers to scan their ID.

“It is pretty intrusive,” cannabis lawyer Harrison Jordan told BIV.

In the U.S., it’s subject to the Patriot Act and could “at least theoretically” be viewed by officials without judicial authorization, he said.

Not complying with the Cannabis Act carries fines up to $5 million and up to three years in jail. Don’t expect to see anyone jailed over an age gate.

“Health Canada loves their warning letters and, typically, companies know that they have to comply with Health Canada and they don’t want to be in their bad books,” Jordan said.

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