An NBC News investigation has revealed that Yelp, the popular business directory service and crowd-sourced review forum, includes an untold number of illegal cannabis dispensaries on its online listings. The concern regarding these shops is not only that they lack the proper licenses to sell cannabis, but that the products that they feature are often illicit and made with no regard to consumer safety and public health.
In an interview for the article linked below, Raphael Cuomo, an assistant professor at the University of California, San Diego, who is researching the public health effects of vaping, noted "This is a clear public health threat that needs to be addressed." However, she went on to say that it's unlikely that Yelp will change its stance given that it has little incentive to remove its listings.
When approached by NBC News, Yelp stated said it would not remove the illegal shops, stating "Consumers have a right to speak their minds about all businesses, irrespective of licensing status." However, it appears that upon the release of the article, Yelp said it would start identifying cannabis shops that have not participated in a "license verification program." Critics argued that this step could be counter-intuitive, actually broadcasting to shoppers that these illegal shops exist and that consumers are likely to get better prices.
The booming black market trade in cannabis continues to be a threat to consumer safety. The healthy concerns regarding dangerous counterfeit cannabis products have been firmly established over the last few years. Legitimate companies, like Yelp, which can assist in the prevention of their sale have an ethical obligation to do so. Legal brands and retailers must also do their part by employing anticounterfeiting measures, like solo*, and ensuring that their customers can confirm that what they're buying is real and safe.