In states where medical cannabis is legal, an important question must be answered. How can patients get their medication if they are physically unable to get to a dispensary? Not surprisingly, several entrepreneurial individuals decided that starting a cannabis delivery service would be a good way to make some cash by providing this service.
Unfortunately, it’s not always legal and there are other roadblocks as well. But that hasn’t stopped entrepreneurs. Across Southern California, medical cannabis delivery businesses now number in the hundreds. California is not alone. Nationwide, these delivery services have tripled in just three years, according to Weedmaps, a Yelp-like directory of cannabis businesses and dispensaries.
The delivery business has become so popular and in-demand that Eaze, a Silicon Valley company, received $12.5 million in venture capital for an app that allows medical cannabis patients to order their medication from the comfort of their own home. Eaze handles none of the product itself. Instead, it hooks people up with delivery services in more than 100 cities in California.
Delivery services provide conveniences to businesses who want to make money off of cannabis without owning a brick-and-mortar shop. Most cities in California have allowed these delivery services to operate freely since state medical cannabis laws fail to mention delivery services. Unlike cigarettes or alcohol, they do require special licensing to do the cannabis delivery business.
But some cities, like Riverside, have banned cannabis delivery. And the newly-passed Proposition D prohibits mobile businesses. However, the L.A. city attorney’s office has yet to prosecute any. Yet some are calling for cities and municipalities to consider supporting delivery businesses as they eliminate unwanted storefronts. They also help to get much-needed medication to home-bound patients or those in communities where brick-and-mortar stores are few in number or outright banned.
In 2016, Sacramento city officials began considering guidelines for the medical cannabis delivery business, including issuing delivery permits allowing for deliveries. Those deliveries would need to be from the city’s 30 licensed retail dispensaries.
In the cannabis delivery business, safety has become a serious issue. In February 2016, a medical cannabis courier was robbed when people in Antioch brandished a gun, stole his wallet, and his car. They made away with $8,000 in cannabis products. The following December, two Oceanside men were arrested after being implicated in the beating and robbery of a cannabis delivery driver, stealing a pound of cannabis.
Massachusetts, a state where cannabis is legal for recreational use as well as medical, recently warned Leafly, another Yelp-like website that lists cannabis dispensaries, that listing ads for delivery services might be violating state law. In April, the site removed the ads, but the site put the ads back up after confirming their owners were state-licensed caregivers authorized to supply their patients with cannabis. However, the caregiver law limits caregivers to one patient at a time and prohibits them from profiting off of their patients. Lawmakers believe the delivery services are in violation of these provisions.
The only businesses allowed to sell cannabis to multiple patients are the state’s 9 licensed dispensaries. The state, as well as some patient advocates, are concerned that the delivery businesses are getting around strict background tests, lab testing requirements, and other considerations that are imposed on brick-and-mortar stores.
Beyond the legality of delivery businesses, there are other considerations of owning or starting a cannabis delivery business. One primary consideration is that the driver, or the delivery person, must be a medical cannabis patient themselves. Knowledge of how much one can carry at one time as well as verifying that their customers are also authorized to purchase medical cannabis is necessary.
Plus, the product has to be housed securely. Many cannabis delivery businesses work out of warehouses that do not serve walk-in customers. Some licensed dispensaries do provide delivery services, but some dispensary owners speak out against the delivery business, citing that it gets the owners out of state oversight and the often expensive and extensive testing required by state law.
Cannabis delivery may be a necessity for some patients unable to get to a brick-and-mortar storefront. They may also keep storefronts to a minimum in communities that don’t want dispensaries. However, the legality of owning and operating such a business will be a worry until state and local lawmakers take steps to either license delivery services or outlaw them entirely.
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