Fueling your pot habit wasn't always easy: You had to get your dealer on the phone (often not possible) and then, usually, go to him. Now, with the city putting so much pressure on illegally operating brick-and-mortar dispensaries, weed delivery services are the latest craze in L.A.
Although delivery services were banned outright last year under Proposition D, more than 100 of these mobile pot shops — plus a handful of storefronts — will bring cannabis, concentrates and edibles to your doorstep. Most assiduously check for medical marijuana cards, following state law while violating city and federal regulations.
We thought this sounded too good to be true. Cannabis brought to you, in only 40 minutes? That's the promise of Speed Weed, the biggest and the slickest of the weed delivery services. Boasting offices in Torrance, Orange County and North Hollywood, Speed Weed is the brainchild of AJ Gentile, 42, who studied the operations manuals for Domino's, Papa John's and FedEx.
Speed Weed's 22 drivers do between 75 and 150 deliveries a day. What must those be like, we wondered? The company was nice enough to let us ride along.
3:40 p.m.: Speed Weed's North Hollywood branch operates out of a yellow, Spanish-style house on a residential street. A skinny girl with Robitussin-colored hair answers the door. The house smells sickly sweet, a mix of caramel and weed. Customers get a free edible with every delivery, and Speed Weed got its start making gummy bears that are 88 percent THC. It has since expanded to hard candy and popcorn.
3:42 p.m.: Robitussin leads me to the dispatch room at the back of the house, where Brandon Covington, a bearded, 30-year-old musician, is processing orders. He's keeping an eye on Google Maps traffic — "Hollywood is a fricking disaster right now" — and directing the six drivers on duty to better routes.
At the desk facing his, a nervous 20-something stuffs ground marijuana into the 120 empty paper cones suspended like icicles in a hexagonal device called a Mountain High Coolbox. This apparatus allows him to produce 400 joints per day, he says.
3:45 p.m.: Today I'll be driving around with an affable guy named Bobby Joyner, who moved to L.A. 17 years ago, from Mississippi by way of Memphis, to be a rock star. A soul patch sits adrift in the middle of his beard, and he's wearing a faded black hoodie with a winged red skull on the back.
Joyner grabs the two orders he needs to deliver and we head out to his nondescript, white 2013 Chevy Cruze. "Don't smoke in the car!" Covington shouts after him.
3:50 p.m.: Joyner types the first customer's address, in Studio City, into his GPS. He explains that he saw this job on Craigslist a few months back. He'd been bartending to make ends meet while waiting for his band to hit it big. "I'm too old," he says. "It's exhausting." Joyner is 43. He also manages apartment buildings, sells houses and supports a college-age daughter who grew up back in Memphis, with her mom.
4:05 p.m.: We pull up in front of the first customer's driveway. She's a regular, Joyner says. He calls to let her know we're here.
We climb the driveway, toting her free edible and a quarter ounce of Sour Jack, which cost $100 and will give her "Fuzzy Brane Tingles!" according to Speed Weed's packaging.
Delivery is free, but the minimum amount you need to order — as well as how much your driver will be compensated — varies according to distance. Even someone this close, in the first delivery zone, needs to order at least $60 of product. If you live farther away, you might need to spend at least $100.
4:07 p.m.: Ascend the black tile stairs to her adobe mansion. Proceed to wait. From inside, we hear her shout, "Coming! Coming!" and then start singing to herself. "This does happen a lot," Joyner says. "Remember what we're doing and who we're dealing with."
4:15 p.m.: She opens the dark wood doors in a red velour Juicy tracksuit. Behind her long, frizzy black hair, we catch a glimpse of a mirrored chandelier and cream-colored furniture. As Joyner enters her credit card information into the GoPayment app on his phone, she sighs and texts furiously.
4:18 p.m.: "She was pretty stoned," Joyner says as we walk back to the car. "But she tipped me $12." At first, he says, he worried customers would want him to come in, hang out and smoke, but that never happens.
4:20 p.m.: Next stop: a new customer in Encino, who ordered $40 of Granddaddy Purple and $60 of Pineapple Express. The packaging for the latter says, "Seth Rogan [sic] avail for additional fee." Covington writes all of the descriptions; he says a lot of people call and ask, in all seriousness, how much it would cost to get the movie star to come over.
4:24 p.m.: "We have a ton of porn star clients," Joyner says. "Porn and weed definitely go hand in hand. They're usually very good tippers."
4:59 p.m.: We get off the 101 and pull up to a row of freeway-adjacent, hideous condos. Joyner calls the customer and says he will meet her in front of the lobby.
5:07 p.m.: Two girls with dyed blonde hair come out of the building, one in studded jorts and the other barefoot, in yoga pants. "I just moved here from Chicago, like, a year ago," says the barefoot girl, marveling at the fact that she can get weed delivered. "Like, is this real life?" She pays in cash and doesn't tip.
5:11 p.m.: Joyner decides to take Ventura Boulevard back instead of the freeway. I ask him whether he thinks he is doing anything illegal. "I hope not," he says. "I've got a clean record, and I want to keep it that way. I'm pretty sure we're OK."
They're not OK, but it doesn't look like City Attorney Mike Feuer is going to do much about it. No delivery services have been shut down yet. "We do not currently have any pending cases," the City Attorney's Office wrote in an email, "but will review any that are brought by LAPD through their enforcement efforts."
It seems delivery services have found a real loophole. All of Speed Weed's drivers are required to have medical marijuana prescriptions. And since they carry less than the legal limit on them at any given time, the only vulnerable aspect of the business is the office. Since a quiet house in North Hollywood is a lot harder for LAPD to spot than a formal storefront with a green cross out front, Gentile isn't concerned.
"You try to operate within the spirit of the law, as opposed to the letter of the law, which is kind of murky," Gentile says. "What we are is a legal entity that facilitates a legal transaction between two legal patients in a home. The DEA is not going to kick down the door to your living room." Still, he says his landlords do not know that his delivery offices keep marijuana on site.
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5:40 p.m.: We arrive back at the house. Everyone there seems impossibly serene. As Gentile says, "The office could be on fire and they would tell me: 'It's a little warm in here, boss, but it's all good.'?"
Covington, finishing his shift as dispatcher, starts to share some war stories. He's on a first-name basis with the five patients who place orders every single day. "The glory you're shining down on my morning is effervescent," one man likes to tell him.
Another guy spent an hour asking questions and complaining about the prices before ordering a few weeks ago. Then, when Joyner got to his gated community, the guy refused to tell security to let him in, insisting that Joyner find a way around the guards. Joyner left. The guy then called the offices more than 80 times to complain. Covington threatened to call the police.
Fortunately for both of them, he didn't have to.