These days, Americans buy approximately everything online — including cannabis. Millions are searching for and finding online cannabis retailers across the country, the researchers find.

The team observed Google searches in the United States between January 2005 and June 2017, comprising all searches with the terms cannabis, weed, pot, or cannabis combined with the terms buy, shop, or order. They mislaid similar but immaterial searches like “buy weed killer.” The team then simulated the relevant searches and checked to see whether the resulting websites advertised mail-order cannabis.

The team found cannabis shopping searches nearly tripled in the United States from 2005 to 2017, peaking between 1.4 and 2.4 million searches each month.

Cannabis shopping searches were highest in Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Nevada. However, the annual development rate in searching for these terms augmented in all but two states, Alabama and Mississippi, proposing demand is accelerating across the nation.

Forty-one percent of all search results linked to stores advertising mail-order cannabis, promising delivery using a variety of approaches including the United State Postal Service, commercial parcel companies such as UPS, or private courier. Moreover, mail-order cannabis retailers occupied half of the first-page results, and three out of every four searches resulted in a mail-order cannabis retailer as the very first suggested link.

Anyone, including teenagers, can search for and buy cannabis from their smartphone irrespective of what state they live in.

Such online sales of cannabis are prohibited in the United States, even in states that have legal or partially legalized the drug, but clearly these rules are failing. Children could obtain cannabis online without safeguards to protect them. States that have legalized cannabis might not be able to collect taxes to offset the public health costs of legal cannabis from online retailers, and the instant online availability of cannabis could increase cannabis dependence among all age groups.

One solution could be for public safety officials to work with internet service providers to purge cannabis retailers from major search engine results, said Ayers. Such a move would effectively close off illegal retailers from consumers.