Will 2021 be the year of cannabis delivery?

Will 2021 be the year of cannabis delivery?

Cannabis delivery could become more available in 2021

With more sales than any other year and demand for cannabis higher than ever, will 2021 be the year cannabis delivery becomes widespread?

2020 was a difficult year, as if that even needs to be said. But there was one thing that helped millions of Americans get through the year.


That’s not an exaggeration either. Americans bought 67% more cannabis in 2020 than the year before to deal with the stress of COVID-19, record unemployment and peak division in the country.

However despite the huge increase in sales, only a handful of states offer delivery options for recreational cannabis consumers.

Cannabis Delivery

Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont, are all technically states that offer some form of delivery service for consumers.

Strict regulations and limitations however have made it so only a few of the states listed actually have a current, implemented delivery system. For example, Massachusetts has been dealing with resistance to their new delivery rules, with the cannabis dispensary association in the state going so far as to sue. Colorado, while passing a law allowing delivery in 2019, has yet to implement it for medical patients, while recreational consumers might have to wait until 2022 for access to the same service.

Other states in the list have only recently legalized medical or recreational cannabis with inclusions for delivery in their legislation. These states such as Arizona, Arkansas, New Mexico and others, while passing legalization bills in 2020, have yet to begin sales of cannabis in general, meaning delivery also hasn’t begun.

The question that a lot of consumers are asking, especially after going through a year of the country’s worst pandemic since the early 1900s and bolstering cannabis sales like never before, is where the hell is the delivery option?

COVID and cannabis

The impact of COVID-19 on businesses across every industry in the country has been stark. Yet while thousands of businesses suffered and even closed down, cannabis businesses everywhere thrived. But almost every single sale was done in-person.

This doesn’t seem to fit the overarching narrative of the last year that social distancing and avoiding others is all but paramount. In this same time Drizly, an alcohol delivery app, became available in 26 states.

In other words, half the country can get alcohol delivered to their door, yet only a couple states allow those with legal access to cannabis to have it delivered. And that is all missed revenue. Bud.com, a delivery service that operates in Northern California, experienced a 500 percent increase in sales after lockdown orders in mid-March, according to Dean Arbit, the chief executive of the company.

So if there’s no shortage of evidence that cannabis delivery can be highly profitable, what are we, or more accurately, what are states waiting for?

Will 2021 be the year?

The events (and profits) of 2020 definitely have more states and cannabis businesses talking about delivery. With no end to social distancing and COVID restrictions in sight, we should expect cannabis sales to continue to grow through 2021, with demand for delivery options growing as well.

Similarly to legalization in general, no state has the same cannabis delivery laws. In other words, there is no single template for states to follow that has seen continued success. Like legalization, some states may be waiting to see another implement delivery successfully from the start, and copy them.

Other states have issues with the laws they already have, such as competition against brick and mortar stores in states that allow delivery straight from distribution centers.

There is little doubt the more states will legalize some form of cannabis delivery in 2021. To expect every state with recreational or medical cannabis to make it available however is a big ask. One that is highly unlikely to happen in just one year.

But if there is any way to describe the cannabis legalization movement, it’s unpredictable.

Weed delivery coming to Masschusetts

Weed delivery coming to Masschusetts

weed delivery in massachusetts

Home delivery of recreational marijuana in Massachusetts is on track to begin in 2021, after the state Cannabis Control Commission moved to lock in detailed regulations for the service.

On a 3-1 vote at a meeting Tuesday, the agency affirmed among other policies that it would issue two types of weed delivery licenses. Officials said they should help cut into the unregulated pot delivery market — while also fulfilling the commission’s legislative mandate to create a more equitable playing field for Black and brown entrepreneurs who have so far struggled to enter the capital-intensive legal marijuana business.

“We’ve shown we can regulate this industry safely and fairly,” commission chairman Steve Hoffman told reporters. “I believe this is a necessary, imperative step to create equity in this marketplace . . . and minimize the illicit market.”

Two weed delivery licenses

One license, a more limited “courier” permit under which drivers would pick up individual orders on demand from brick-and-mortar marijuana shops and bring them to customers’ doorsteps for a fee, is already available to businesses; so far, 37 companies have received initial certification and are pursuing local and state approval.

The second is a new category of expanded “warehouse” weed delivery licenses (formally, “marijuana delivery operator” licenses) that essentially allow companies to operate like retailers without physical storefronts, buying marijuana products in bulk from suppliers and reselling the inventory online via home weed delivery. Applications for the expanded licenses should become available in the first half of 2021.

Entrepreneurs in the commission’s social equity and economic empowerment programs — largely Black and brown entrepreneurs affected by the war on drugs — will have exclusive access to both types of delivery licenses for three years, beginning when the first marijuana delivery operator opens for business.

Brick and Mortar dispensaries opposed

The addition of the expanded retailer-like delivery licenses to the commission’s proposed regulations in August drew howls of protest from many existing brick-and-mortar marijuana stores, which had been poised to serve as the source of all home pot deliveries under the earlier, courier-only model.

Dispensary owners argue the expanded weed delivery operations will unfairly undermine their main street businesses and, in turn, deprive municipalities of tax revenue. The Massachusetts Municipal Association and a handful of state legislators allied with the dispensaries also weighed in against the new licenses, saying in part that more time was needed to review the change.

Critics further questioned whether the warehouse-type businesses, which are subject to the same intensive security regulations as other marijuana facilities, would be affordable for disenfranchised entrepreneurs; a selling point of the original courier-only model was that it required only a van with security cameras and a small dispatch office where no cannabis was stored.

“We’re very disappointed,” David Torrisi, president of the Commonwealth Dispensary Association, said in an interview. “The public, municipalities, and legislators haven’t had enough time to digest this proposal, and I don’t think the commission has done enough analysis to determine the impact on the supply chain and the marketplace.”

He added the association was weighing possible legislative or legal action in response.

More social equity in weed delivery in Massachusetts

Proponents of the expanded licenses counter that the courier licenses are financially unviable. And, they argued, white-owned recreational dispensaries that emerged from the existing medical marijuana program — which gave no consideration to equity when awarding licenses — have already had the cannabis business mostly to themselves for years.

Besides, they said, weed delivery services in other states with legal cannabis account for perhaps 20 to 30 percent of the market, hardly an Amazon-style retail armageddon.

“This is a huge step forward,” said Christopher Fevry of the Massachusetts Cannabis Association for Delivery. “Couriers are at the mercy of the retailers. If they don’t give you orders, you die, and when the exclusivity period ends, they’ll just say, ‘we don’t need you anymore.’ Now we’re in control of our own destiny.”

Regulators did take steps to address the concerns raised by critics, including limiting the number of weed delivery licenses any company can own to two.

The commission also voted to ban third-party marijuana delivery technology platforms — such as Eaze and Lantern, an offshoot of alcohol delivery firm Drizly — from having a “financial interest” in more than one cannabis delivery licensee. The policy is meant to prevent the popular websites from preferentially steering consumers to delivery companies they’re invested in while freezing out independent operators; it could also help assuage brick-and-mortar dispensary owners who feared a large Amazon-like platform would back numerous delivery firms and dominate the market.

Commissioners further opted to ban what they deemed the “ice cream truck” model, under which weed delivery operators might have prepositioned vans loaded with packaged pot products in strategic locations to fulfill anticipated orders. Instead, every order must originate from the company’s warehouse. And they left in place earlier security restrictions, including a mandate that two workers must ride in every delivery vehicle and a prohibition on delivering recreational marijuana to cities and towns that have banned retail marijuana storefronts. (Medical marijuana deliveries have long been allowed anywhere in the state.)

Commissioner Jen Flanagan, who has long opposed launching delivery operations on public safety and health grounds, made a last-ditch attempt to delay the program’s launch until 2023.

However, her motion failed 3-1, with Hoffman noting that the commission had originally planned to launch deliveries in 2018 before pulling back under pressure from Governor Charlie Baker and others who urged the agency to “crawl before it walks.” Outgoing Commissioner Britte McBride, who conceived of the original courier-only model, also opposed a delay.

“I don’t think we can wait [to address] equity or the illicit market any longer,” she said.


Are ALL Dispensaries Essential?

Are ALL Dispensaries Essential?

Cannabis dispensaries are being labeled “essential”. Should that also mean legal?

COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus, has completely changed the way we all live. As much as we don’t want to admit it, our everyday lifestyles are changing pretty drastically and the nation, its states, and businesses big and small are all struggling to find a solution.

With several states beginning to shut down “non-essential” businesses, the decision has to be made what businesses are essential. There’s the obvious essential businesses like grocery stores, doctors offices and pharmacies.

But one business most people probably didn’t expect to be marked essential is cannabis dispensaries.

Cannabis dispensaries are essential?

While most states are shutting down all non-essential businesses, exceptions have been made for a variety of businesses in different states. Most states are permitting restaurants to stay open for carry-out only, and in Colorado, you can now get alcohol to go from restaurants that serve beer.

Now in Los Angeles, amid an entire state-wide stay-in order, cannabis dispensaries have been deemed essential businesses that can remain open.

Unfortunately for recreational users, the rule only applies to medical dispensaries, which makes sense. People with a doctor’s prescription for medical cannabis, especially those with serious or debilitating conditions still need access to their medicine.

But if medical dispensaries are essential, and New York has even deemed liquor stores essential, then why shouldn’t recreational dispensaries be essential too?

The question that this really beckons to be answered though, is if medical cannabis dispensaries are essential businesses, why shouldn’t they be federally legal?

A sign we should legalize?

The fact that state governments across the country have deemed medical cannabis dispensaries essential and sales of recreational cannabis have skyrocketed over the past two weeks should be a sign that it is a product that is in great demand, right?

But that doesn’t mean recreational cannabis is as essential as medical cannabis, and as much as we hate to say it here at The Real Dirt, even alcohol.

The reason liquor stores are being permitted to remain open is likely due to the 15 million people across the country who suffer from alcoholism, and a smaller minority that suffers from serious addiction that could lead to serious health problems if they were to quit drinking cold-turkey.

If we continue to insist that cannabis is non-addictive (or at least not as harmfully addictive as alcohol and other pharmaceuticals), then there is no reason for recreational cannabis businesses to be deemed essential.

Nobody needs recreational cannabis to survive, unlike those with medical cards who could seriously rely on it. Where the debate lies, is in the differences between medical and recreational cannabis and how the line drawn between the two is so subtle and blurry.

Where does this lead?

A day after I started writing this, Colorado announced a stay-in-order, including the closure of liquor stores and recreational dispensaries. Not even four hours later, they were forced to walk it back.

There was so much backlash that the Governor of Colorado has now made recreational dispensaries and liquor stores essential businesses.

So while only medical dispensaries are deemed essential in California, recreational dispensaries are added to that list in Colorado. If other states follow behind Colorado and include recreational and medical dispensaries in their essential business orders, it could be a big bargaining chip in the fight for legalization.

If every state with medical and legal cannabis deems the businesses as essential — just as essential as grocery stores, doctor offices, and pharmacies — then how someone seriously argue that it should be illegal? We know the fight we’re in, however, and we know it won’t be that easy.

A more likely advancement that cannabis consumers can get excited about is the rise of cannabis delivery. Colorado is only allowing the first medical dispensary in Boulder to deliver starting this spring, with plans for recreational to follow in 2021.

But with current developments and a need to provide cannabis to thousands of consumers, more dispensaries will start to ask the government to move faster.

The fact remains that cannabis dispensaries are the only business across the country that have been deemed essential, while also being federally illegal. It’s pretty crazy when you really think about it. Read that first sentence again for maximum impact.