Colorado’s Marijuana Retailers Are Now On The Edge Of A Consumer Privacy Frontier

(Brett Levin Photography)

(Brett Levin Photography)

The right to privacy where you shop is something consumers hold dear, but at the same time, when your favorite stores track your purchases using loyalty rewards programs, they can better market you promotional offers or other discounts. But how’s that going to work in Colorado’s new legal marijuana industry, where privacy at the store is especially cherished?

The constitutional amendment that legalized pot for recreational use in Colorado doesn’t include a requirement for shops selling marijuana keep any records on customers, only that they show a government-issued ID to prove they’re old enough to buy, notes the Denver Post.

But what if a shop owner wants to have a rewards program, to better market say, a customer’s favorite strain of Purple Moose Stampede (totally fictitious name, feel free to use that, growers)? It’s up to retailers to try to convince customers wary of their privacy to add their cellphone number or email to a promotional list.

That might be a tough sell for customers, with some saying they’d rather not have that information tied to their pot purchases.

“We have so many violations of privacy in our lives already,” he said. “We don’t have a Fourth Amendment anymore. So anytime you have a chance to exercise that right, it’s a good feeling.”

So far it sounds like store owners are fine with that, and would rather make customers feel their privacy is protected, even though they’d of course like to get to know their shopping habits at the same time.

“You have to find a healthy balance,” the co-owner of one store as well as a chain of recreational and medical marijuana outlets told the Denver Post. “How do we capture information that is pertinent to the success of our new retail business, versus the privacy of adults who now have this right and are able to shop at our stores?”

For his stores, all that means is an open invitation for customers to add themselves to a list at the checkout.

Pot retailers as a whole are treated much like liquor stores in the state, but they’re still a long way from having the same feel as walking into your corner store to buy a bottle of wine or a sandwich.

“It’s heading in a way of more traditional commerce, but there is real hesitancy on the part of consumers and businesses to get too involved in the collection of consumer data,” said a co-author of Amendment 64. “It’s really the dawn of a new industry, figuring out how far you can push without consumers being wary.”

Pot shops wary of privacy concerns in handling customer information [Denver Post]