Marijuana Delivery Could Live or Die by Proposition M

Marijuana delivery is not legal in the city of Los Angeles
Marijuana delivery is not legal in the city of Los Angeles

If it's passed by L.A. voters on March 7, Proposition M will give the City Council the power to keep L.A.'s pot shops alive. Starting next year, the state of California will require pre-existing medical marijuana dispensaries — and new recreational weed shops — to have local permits, which City Hall currently doesn't issue. But it will if voters approve Proposition M.

Another crucial marijuana-licensing question that's sometimes overlooked is whether the city should allow delivery services to bring weed to your door. While there are many online concerns that already do this, they're illegal under the city's current weed regulations. In fact, last year the City Attorney's Office announced it had secured an agreement under which one of California's biggest delivery services, Speed Weed, would cease operations in Los Angeles.

Additionally, new state regulations that take effect Jan. 1 say delivery should be performed only by services attached to brick-and-mortar shops unless those shops are part of a chain of weed businesses. California NORML calls this part of the law "confusingly stated." Proposition M would give the City Council authority over "regulation of transportation of cannabis products," according to similarly vague language.

The biggest advocate of Proposition M, a group of dispensaries and marijuana business interests known as the Southern California Coalition, hopes that its passage will open the legal door to the likes of Speed Weed and other delivery services. The organization wants voters to know that if Proposition M doesn't pass, delivery will continue to be outlawed in town.

"The only way delivery is going to be possible in the city of L.A. is if Proposition M passes," says Bobby Vecchio, the group's expert on delivery issues.

The patron saint of the weed-delivery argument is the bedridden cancer patient who just can't get to her neighborhood dispensary for some relief. The city's current pot shop law, 2013's Proposition D, allows primary caregivers to bring clients their weed from a licensed dispensary. But delivery service advocates say that's way too limiting. Some if not many patients don't have primary caregivers who can run errands.

"The most ill folks that state law was passed to protect aren't able to get to a dispensary," Vecchio says. "It's completely imperative for delivery to exist. People are going to get their cannabis how and where they want. We need the government to recognize that."

It's not clear if the City Council agrees with the coalition's stance, which is to open the doors to delivery apps and let the market decide how many are too many. While other dispensary groups, including the Los Angeles Cannabis Task Force, are pro-delivery, there still could be pushback at the City Council level if Proposition M passes.

The United Cannabis Business Alliance, which endorsed Proposition M, is in favor only of direct delivery from brick-and-mortar stores.

"Our position has always been that delivery should be restricted to brick-and-mortar shops, if there's going to be delivery at all," says Harvey Englander of government-relations consulting firm Englander Knabe & Allen, which represents UCBA.

Englander says he wonders how delivery pot will be taxed if third-party services are legalized. Those services sometimes deliver their own product. City prosecutors had made a similar argument against Speed Weed.

Vecchio argues that opponents to an open field for delivery services "are trying to protect their own interests."


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