You could get marijuana delivered to your home in L.A. since at least the days of Cheech & Chong. But, despite California's legalization of medical cannabis in 1996, the essential activity of having someone bring it to you has been pretty much illegal in the city of Los Angeles.
The app-based delivery service Speed Weed learned that the hard way last year when the City Attorney's Office announced the firm would cease to exist within our borders. Of course, that hasn't stopped other tech-based companies from keeping delivery alive in L.A. And now, ironically, state and city officials have revealed proposed regulations for medical pot that would legalize delivery, particularly the kind allegedly practiced by Speed Weed.
Loose-ends legislation from Gov. Jerry Brown's office proposes that delivery be allowed so long as the driver is connected with a licensed brick-and-mortar dispensary. That dispensary wouldn't have to be a storefront; it could exist simply to serve delivery customers.
City Attorney's spokesman Frank Mateljan alleged last year that Speed Weed was pulling its product from "multiple non-immune physical locations within the city" that were used "as distribution centers for these deliveries." Next year such a setup — delivery tied to licensed physical locations — could be fully legal if sanctioned by City Hall. We reached out to Speed Weed co-founder A.J. Gentile but he did not respond.
The city's proposed rules would tolerate third-party tech companies, such as Nestdrop, that claim only to connect customers with dispensaries and their drivers, but it's not clear if the latest state legislation would allow this. Delivery "would have to have a physical location" as a base, says Dale Gieringer, state coordinator of California NORML.
Still, major proponents of marijuana regulation in Los Angeles are pleased with the evolution of the rules on delivery, arguing that it's a core facet of medical cannabis for patients who are immobile. "It's great news," says Bobby Vecchio, a member of the board that represents the largest group of marijuana businesses in town, the Southern California Coalition. "I think having brick-and-mortar locations tied to delivery is good for accountability."
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Jeff McConnell of the United Cannabis Business Association, which represents a core group of legal dispensaries in L.A., agrees with Vecchio. "From a taxation and enforcement perspective, we feel it's important it be tied to a brick-and-mortar location," he says.
Legalizing delivery in town could bring big tax dollars to City Hall, but it could also crowd out traditional dispensaries when people realize — particularly after recreational pot is cleared for retailing in January — how easy it is to get weed at home. "If I were in this business, I would be really concerned about competition," Gieringer says.
But brick-and-mortar stores could be in a good position to take over delivery if the final regulations require deliveries to come from licensed, physical locations. Elizabeth Conway, an adviser to cannabis technology company Eaze, says cannabis retailers that add legit delivery will "see a lift if they do it right."
"In a densely populated area with a high demand and need for an alternative to having to drive to those dispensaries, well, you can do the math," she says.