Dear Herb: I’m younger than 18. Can I work in a head shop?

Youth employment is great, but maybe not in a store that sells cannabis accessories


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Dear Herb: Can someone under the age of 18 work in a store that sells drug paraphernalia, but not weed itself? — Young Job Seeker

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/03/2019 (1415 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Dear Herb: Can someone under the age of 18 work in a store that sells drug paraphernalia, but not weed itself? — Young Job Seeker

Dear Seeker: In order to answer this question, I consulted a few lawyers and a few people who work for head shops. The general consensus was that a well-run head shop probably won’t employ someone who’s younger than 18.

The Cannabis Act makes it explicitly illegal to sell a cannabis accessory to someone younger than 18. More importantly, it also makes it illegal for someone who sells a cannabis accessory “to display it… in a manner that may result in the cannabis accessory, package or label being seen by a young person.”

Herb answers your questions about legal consumption and growing, the law, etiquette — you name it, he'll look into it.

That prohibition on displaying cannabis accessories where a young person could see them would probably be enough to give any head shop-owner pause about employing a young person. If that young employee could see any cannabis accessories at all, the store owner could be in violation of federal law.

Cannabis lawyer Jack Lloyd thinks that law is vague and hard to enforce. 

“I think police have better things to do than track down 17-year-olds selling bongs,” he said, adding he thinks a strict reading of the law probably means a head shop could get in trouble by employing a young person.

“In short, if you’re a store owner and you’re asking me this question, better safe than sorry. I’ve never met a 17-year-old employee that was worth a potential $35,000 piece of litigation.”

Paul Lewin, another attorney in the cannabis space, agreed the Cannabis Act’s prohibition on displaying accessories where they can be seen by a young person probably puts the kibosh on this idea. He also pointed out the kind of smoking or vaping paraphernalia sold at a head shop could also be used for tobacco, so various provincial laws on tobacco or smoking could potentially prevent young people from working in such a store.

Abi Roach is owner of the long-standing Hotbox Cafe and Shop in Toronto, which has been selling cannabis accessories for more than two decades. Even when the law wasn’t clear, it’s always been her personal preference not to employ anyone younger than 18, she said. (She remembers being turned down for a job at a Toronto head shop when she was 16 years old.)

“If I can’t sell you a glass of beer or a cigarette, up to a certain age, then I shouldn’t be able to sell you cannabis products,” said Roach.

“And a young person shouldn’t be able to sell you cannabis products, as well.”

The Joint chain of head shops also doesn’t hire people under the age of 18 to work at its stores in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, said Ariel Glinter, the company’s director of business development and regulatory compliance. That’s because the stores sell tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars and blunt wraps, but even so, Glinter says he’s never heard of a minor working in the head-shop industry.

The Cannabis Act included new rules for businesses that sell cannabis accessories. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

“In our experience, over the last ten years, anybody advertising for jobs at these stores would say 18-plus,” he said.

It looks like the odds are against a young Canadian who wants to work at a head shop. Try again when you’re 18 or older.

Got a question about cannabis? Herb answers your questions about legal consumption and growing, the law, etiquette — you name it, he’ll look into it.

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