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  • Writer's pictureNoah Jager

Cannabis Retailers and What You Need to Know About Tobacco 21

Governor JB Pritzker signed into law House Bill 345, which is an initiative that prohibits the sale of tobacco products, including e-cigarette products and vape pens, to people younger than age 21.

The Prevention of Tobacco Use by Persons under 21 Years of Age and Sale and Distribution of Tobacco Products Act, more commonly referred to as Tobacco 21, went into effect on July 1, 2019. Some e-cigarette products contain tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the primary psychoactive component of cannabis and cannabinoid (CBD) oils. So, the question is, what do cannabis retailers planning to sell e-cigarettes or vape pens with THC or CBD need to know to be in compliance with Tobacco 21?

Tobacco 21 prohibits the sale and sample distribution of tobacco products, e-cigarettes, and alternative nicotine products to individuals under age 21. The law requires that before selling or offering for sale, a tobacco product, electronic cigarette, or alternative nicotine product to another person, the person selling has to verify that any person who appears to be under 30 years old meets the minimum 21 years of age requirement by examining their government issued photo identification. (720 ILCS 675a-5.1) Essentially, retailers have to decline a sale when the customer is underage, has no photo ID, the photo ID contains no date of birth, or the photo ID has expired. For online sales, the seller must verify that the purchaser is at least 21 years old through an independent, third-party age verification service that compares public records to personal information entered by the person during the ordering process. (Id.)

The Act requires that sales associates must be at least 16 years of age and tobacco and e-cigarette retailers have age verification training programs for employees. The training programs must explain that only individuals displaying valid identification demonstrating that they are 21 years of age or older shall be eligible to purchase tobacco products, electronic cigarettes, or alternative nicotine products and the training program must explain where a clerk can check identification for a date of birth.

Tobacco 21 also requires that tobacco and e-cigarette retailers update all posted signage required by Illinois law with the minimum sales age of 21 for tobacco products, tobacco accessories, alternative nicotine products, e-cigarettes, and e-liquids and solutions, regardless of whether they contain nicotine. Chicago retailers must post a city government-required sign stating that it is a violation of law for cigarettes or other tobacco products or tobacco accessories to be sold to any person under the age of 21.

Tobacco 21 does allow certain tobacco products, electronic cigarettes, and alternative nicotine products to be sold through a vending machine if: such products are not placed together with any non-tobacco products, the vending machine is at a location in which persons under 21 years of age are not permitted access, and when the vending machine operation is under the direct supervision of the owner or manager if alcoholic beverages are sold and consumed on the premises. (720 ILCS 675/1(b)).

It also has certain exceptions for tobacco products and alternative nicotine products approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for sale as a tobacco cessation product and any asthma inhaler prescribed by a physician, or for any therapeutic product approved for use under the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act.

Penalties against retailers for violating these sales provisions vary based on the number of offenses in a 24-month period. The 1st offense is fined at $200; a 2nd offense is fined at $400, a 3rd offense is fined at $600, and a 4th or subsequent offense results in a $800 fine.

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