Uber, the rideshare company that has been delivering everything from fast food to ice cream in some cities is now trying their hand at cannabis. The world’s largest e-commerce retailer Amazon even bought a wholesale pharmacy license so they can distribute medical marijuana and related products. But as both of these companies are finding out, it won’t be easy to start up a weed business without stepping on someone else’s toes.
The Federal government controls the marijuana business and they’ve been so concerned about keeping it out of the hands of young people that they’ve restricted advertising, made home delivery illegal in most places, and prohibited interstate commerce. It may be legal to grow or possess in a state like Colorado but that doesn’t mean you can ship a package across state lines. In other words: if these companies want to sell cannabis legally from coast-to-coast then they need licenses for all 50 states—and only one has a dispensary license right now.
But as more dispensaries get licensed there will be even fewer regulations on how products are delivered–Uber is hoping this means it could start delivering weed nationwide soon after recreational legalization takes effect .
Uber has partnered with Eaze, the delivery service app that is already delivering weed in California. In a press release Uber said it was “excited to explore opportunities within the cannabis industry.”
“The combination of on-demand transportation and access to medical marijuana products through this partnership will provide people with greater access to important healthcare resources,” said Mike Daugherty, general manager for Uber Colorado. The company also wants its drivers screened for past drug use before they can drive passengers who may be carrying drugs and need someone sober behind the wheel–and they don’t want just anyone driving their customers around if those customers happen to be transporting tinctures or edibles.
In order for Uber’s plan succeed there are still three big hurdles to jump:
Uber needs a license for deliveries in California, where cannabis is legal. It will need one from the Californian Department of Public Health too–and they haven’t yet announced whether they’ll issue them or not. Uber also doesn’t know how it would be able to confirm that its drivers have complied with state law and don’t drive while impaired by marijuana use-though the company has said it’s looking into partnering with third-party testing labs to do this kind of work.
It’s not just Uber that would have to change if the company were able to offer cannabis deliveries, it’s also cities and counties. Cities like West Hollywood (which has regulated recreational marijuana dispensaries) could start charging additional licensing fees for pot delivery services or prohibit them altogether. What happens when you’re in an area where weed is illegal? These drivers won’t be able to deliver, so they’ll need a system of some kind-perhaps one already used by Uber–to notify their driver that they can’t make a delivery at this time. There will also need to be systems put into place for customers who are ordering on behalf of others: how do those individuals confirm with the dispensary that they are over 21 ?
Uber will probably buy a company in the cannabis market. By the time they get into it, there will be even more companies in this space.
-Uber could buy Eaze, a weed delivery company. It’s also possible that they will partner with them.
-Or maybe this acquisition would be more like the Lyft/Lyft Line partnership where it is done on an exclusive basis and Uber gets to offer their customers cannabis deliveries as part of its regular service offerings?
-The most likely scenario has little to do with whether or not you have access to conventional marijuana dispensaries nearby: it’s simply about how many people are looking for pot in your area at any given time (and how willing those individuals are to walk). With so much competition from other drivers, no one wants some dude driving around town trying desperately to give away his smelly product out of desperation .
-Uber has no shortage of big ideas and ambitions. They want to make the world a better place for drivers, they want everyone in America to have access to healthcare, and now they also want us all to be able to get our hands on some cannabis.
-A major concern is that local law enforcement agencies will attempt use this as an opportunity seize Uber’s vehicles or shut down their operations altogether by claiming the company violated drug laws despite federal legalization efforts. For example: there are significant risks associated with operating marijuana delivery services outside of legal states due to higher rates of police intervention than conventional driving networks like Lyft Line (federal prohibition means it’s illegal transport marijuana between jurisdictions).