How Your Personal Cannabis Info is Stored Depends on Where You Are | Marijuana

How Your Personal Cannabis Info is Stored Depends on Where You Are


In states with regulated cannabis markets, marijuana shoppers might enjoy less privacy than many would hope for if the feds ever decided to crack down on dispensaries. With U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ rescission of the Cole Memo, state industries face the concern that federal prosecutors will start enforcing cannabis regulations. The consumption, possession, cultivation, sale and distribution of cannabis is still illegal at the federal level. Just how much personal information is shared varies from state to state and even city to city.

States collect personal information in different ways

At your average California dispensary, residents must present their ID to prove they’re over the age of 21. Medical marijuana patients must also present their doctor’s recommendation.

Dispensaries will often photocopy these documents for their records or have visitors directly enter their information into a digital system — all while a security camera looks on.

This type of detailed record keeping is often required by law; the extent of which is determined by the state agencies that create the recordkeeping rules. Often, this data is intended to measure the success of a program and ensure compliance with its regulations. Most often, regulatory agencies require data be taken at the point of sale, the results of which are reported in numbers and statistics — not individual purchasing information.  

Colorado law mandates that recreational dispensaries keep recorded footage for 40 days and allow state officials to inspect it as they please. In the event of a raid, these records could be confiscated and used as evidence.

Arkansas is another medically legal state that’s strict with its reporting requirements. Dispensaries are banned from using promotion and marketing materials and are required to treat patient information as confidential medical records.In Oregon and Alaska, however, dispensaries simply take a look at a customers’ ID to confirm they’re of legal age. Customers are free to wander inside the shop without offering any personal information, though they still have the option to sign up for the store’s email list and receive promotional discounts.

Do medical patients enjoy any federal protections?

HIPAA protects patients’ medical information when they receive a medical marijuana recommendation, but dispensaries and delivery services aren’t obligated to treat patient and customer information with the same discretion.

Tamar Todd of the Drug Policy Alliance said the threat of a Federal crackdown on individuals is minimal. Additionally, the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment — called Rohrabacher-Blumenauer following the retirement of Senator Farr who originally co-authored the bill — prohibits the DOJ from prosecuting those who comply with state medical marijuana laws. These protections stick around so long as Congress chooses to renew the amendment every fiscal year. Thanks to bipartisan support, the amendment was reauthorized on Feb. 8.

No such federal-level policy exists to protect recreational users. It’s up to state regulatory measures to protect the average consumer’s privacy from both federal crackdowns and incursion by other interested parties. Some individual states have taken steps to protect customers’ personal information.

How are states protecting recreational users?

In April 2017, Oregon passed a law prohibiting dispensaries from keeping or sharing customer information. Oregon lawmakers passed the measure citing fears that the Trump administration would crack down on cannabis consumers. Similar laws exist in Alaska, Colorado and Washington. Twenty five states with medical cannabis regulatory frameworks still lack such protections, some of which are also recreational states.

Marijuana policy experts are skeptical that the federal authorities would spend the time and resources to target individual cannabis customers.

“It’s very, very unlikely that there’s going to be targeting of individual customers. Many, many other targets would come first,” Todd told Politifact.

About Author

Shanti Ryle is a professional writer and media producer with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Theatre from Southern Oregon University. With years of copy and media production experience, Shanti is passionate about telling humanity’s essential stories. From cannabis to podcasts, she’s developed content for, Wayland Productions, Stride Search and several freelance publications.



  2. In the grand scheme of things, this is much ado about nothing. There are 30 MILLION Americans who smoke the plant. What are the feds going to do….collect, inspect, and analyze the smoking habits and purchasing history of the masses? S-u-u-u-u-u-r-e they will. I doubt they have the time, money, and manpower to devote to this nonsense.

    Back the F off, feds….Americans will NEVER give up their freedom of choice!

    • Your right there! No one will ever give up their freedom. As hard as they try to make this Country communist, it will never happen. America is too strong and too many people have the sense to act when something is just wrong. The pressure from the masses is the only reason that lawmakers have to reschedule MJ. It’s just a shame so much time and money was burned by not doing this a lot sooner.

  3. “It’s very, very unlikely that there’s going to be targeting of individual customers. Many, many other targets would come first,”
    I don’t know Todd, this administration seems to major in minors. One can only ask a Dreamer.

    • Bruce Erickson on

      But in 2 states now if you get your medical card you have to surrender your firearms and are put on a “CAN NOT OWN OR POSSES A FIREARM” list. No guns or bullets as now you are considered a mental health risk.

      • Which is total bs as we all know. However, it is along the lines of restricting a mmj patient from having access to other pain medications. I was taking morphine, oxycodone & percaset (sp?) for pain from degenerative disc disease when I originally got my mmj card. My doctor was very supportive. At the next appt, however, I was told he could no longer prescribe my opiate medication or he would risk having his license revoked by the AMA. True story. (I haven’t used any opiates in over 6 years.)

  4. I am concerned that the Federal Government would try to use this data to prevent someone from collecting their rightfully earned Social Security or possibly Medicare as they need to cost control as a result of giving those benefits out to people who didn’t earn them. I don’t trust government period.

  5. Back in the ’70’s we always used to say, “F*ck the cops,” but that’s not o.k. online. I’m in Cali and no one bothers me. You know why? Because I am old.

    • Hair Trigger on

      I had the same thought while reading these comments about how the fed won’t be rounding up buyers, or that federal agencies have something better to do. My guess is none of these folks lived through the 60s and 70s. This is precisely what federal agencies do. Further, they give funds and toys to local departments that follow their lead. I’m medical and old. I’m not too worried, but I did spend about 50 years being paranoid. No more.

    • I hear you and Hair Trigger. I’m old too and frankly, I’ve been hoping & praying for this for so many years. I was smoking cannabis in the 60’s. Now I’m smoking cannabis in MY 60’s. I was paranoid for years but things were different then. That and I had small children to raise. They’re grown now, I have my little piece of paper that says I can and I do smoke my favorite herb often.

  6. Juandangas,hair trigger& Annie
    65 and 50 year indulger. From the $15 dollarlid to Thai stick. Finally in Fl. I got a MJ medical card. Lucky I could affordthe $275 just to get started. In a few years I hope it is so widespread that the price comes down. Peace out brothers and sisters

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