California regulators announced the launch of a new program on Thursday that will allow consumers to verify that they are visiting a licensed dispensary by scanning a QR code with their cell phones. Officials with the California Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) say the program will support licensed businesses and are urging consumers to look for the QR codes while they are shopping to ensure that the products they are buying comply with state regulatory standards.

“We believe licensed retailers will benefit from a recognizable emblem distinguishing them as a licensed business in the community,” said BCC Chief Lori Ajax in a press release. “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.”

The BCC said that the new QR code verification system should help the efforts to combat California’s unregulated cannabis market. Without the taxes, fees, and other costs that must be paid by licensed businesses, illicit market operators are able to offer lower prices and continue to thrive.

“The importance of a QR code identification system for licensees is underscored by the fact that many consumers have difficulty telling the difference between licensed and unlicensed retail storefronts,” the agency wrote. “This was on display last week when the Bureau and other state agencies worked in coordination with the City of Los Angeles to serve 45 search warrants against illegal operators over the course of three days.”

Simple Verification System

When a QR code is located at a dispensary and scanned with a smartphone, it automatically links to the BCC’s online license search to confirm the shop’s license status. The retailer’s address and license location will also be displayed so that consumers can confirm that it is not counterfeit. An educational video to learn how to scan the QR codes and verify retailer licenses is available online. Consumers without a QR-enable smartphone can verify a dispensary’s license at

Ruben Honig, the executive director of licensed cannabis retailer trade group the United Cannabis Business Association, said in a statement that the prevalence of unlicensed dispensaries in California makes it difficult for consumers to determine if they are buying from a regulated business.

“When voters approved Proposition 64 there was an immediate assumption that overnight, everywhere that sold cannabis was legal and safe – unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth – California’s illicit market is nearly three times the size of its legal one and many consumers cannot tell the difference, leading them to unknowingly purchase untested and unregulated products that may put their health at risk,” Honig said. “This QR code campaign is another tool in our consumer education toolbelt that will more clearly differentiate legal, tested products and work to keep Californians safe.”

The BCC’s QR code license verification system ties into its Get #weedwise public service campaign that was launched earlier this year. More information about the program that encourages consumers to seek out licensed dispensaries is available on the BCC website.

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