As weed becomes ever more legal in large swaths of the United States, more and more entrepreneurs are turning to a relatively new means of getting the stuff to customers: marijuana delivery services.
Cannabis delivery drivers have been working in some parts of the country for years. The services are especially popular in places like California and Washington, where federal agents frequently shut down medical marijuana dispensaries.
Brian Reichle, a comedian who lives in Burbank, Cal., uses a local delivery service to get his weed, about $100 worth each week. On one recent delivery, he picked up a gram of pot, 10 joints, and some edibles.
“They come to my house and they’re in and out,” said Reichle, 39. “I shouldn’t have to go to a store.”
That sense of convenience is a major driving force behind the delivery businesses that are popping up in places where recreational or medical weed is legal. So is the fact that these services are harder for authorities to shut down than traditional pot shops.
There are hundreds of these providers in Southern California alone and more than 2,500 nationwide, according to the dispensary directory Weedmaps.
Most of them operate under the radar. They’re easy to find and use, but they tend to be secretive about their locations and ownership. That usually makes it harder for police to bust these services, even when they’re explicitly illegal.
Some dispensaries offer their own delivery services, in part to serve customers better and in part to build a backup business in case federal or local law enforcement raid their shops, shut them down, and seize their property.
Police and federal agents have long targeted MMJ dispensaries, especially in California, Washington, and Colorado. Washington and Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, while California adopted medical cannabis in 1996.
Last summer the Department of Justice announced it wouldn’t interfere with states that legalize as long as they enforce several law enforcement priorities, such as keeping pot from kids. The DOJ also said it wouldn’t go after marijuana businesses that follow state law.
Yet aggressive prosecutions continue across the country, with rogue U.S. attorneys determined to shut down all cannabis anywhere in the United States, regardless of their own boss’s policies.
Los Angeles is one hotspot for MMJ delivery services. Drivers have long been working in L.A., but a recently enacted law has shut down hundreds of weed dispensaries throughout the city. Many of the shops’ owners saw delivery as the only way to get their product to patients.
And a growing number of customers see delivery as the simplest way to get the drug. Still, most don’t know much about the services, and business owners say that gives them huge room for growth.
“I still believe 75 percent of marijuana patients don’t know delivery is a thing,” said A.J. Gentile, owner of Speed Weed in L.A. “It’s safer to engage this way. You don’t have to go to a sketchy dispensary. That’s why we get so many female customers.”