By Caity Maple.

Last November the voters of California agreed that they’d like to have their recreational cannabis, and smoke (or vape, or eat) it, too.

And now the state, who had already been wrestling with the development and implementation of medical cannabis guidelines set forth by the state Legislature, has a whole new task — with a very tight timeline — before them. According to Proposition 64, policymakers have until January 1, 2018 to start issuing state licenses for recreational cannabis businesses in California.

Meanwhile, cities and counties across the state have taken it upon themselves to set up their own guidelines. While some localities, such as the City of Sacramento, have been very progressive with their policies, others have banned cannabis all together.

The ability for local governments to make their own rules was intentionally included in the Proposition because of California’s love of “local control”, which gives counties, cities and special districts significant power in setting their own rules. This makes sense in a state so large and complex — what works in Los Angeles may not translate to Alpine, which has a total population of just over 1,000.

However, this patchwork of policies has created a confusing and challenging environment for a burgeoning industry.

While some local governments are forging their own path, many are waiting for the state agencies to finish their regulatory process for medical cannabisin order to determine how they should move forward. And to make things even more convoluted, that process has been stalled due to the Governor’s proposal to “vertically integrate” both the medical and recreational laws, which aims to streamline them as much as possible.

Efficiency and “doing it right” are important, but many are left wondering how to navigate this new world of cannabis in California.

While the cities and counties are looking toward the state’s agencies for guidance, and the state’s agencies are looking toward the administration, the cannabis industry is suspended in a frustrating purgatory where they want to be regulated and compliant, but don’t yet have a process to do so.

So, here we are. It’s the roaring twenties and we’re witnessing the end of prohibition…again.

And as with any policy making, it’s not a pretty process. It’s complex and confusing, and sometimes important things get overlooked. In this case, it’s a lack of knowledge about an industry that has remained in the dark for quite some time, and even now, is weary of the light.

Despite this, many brave souls have voluntarily come into the light. Even as they are told what they are doing isn’t legal, they are subsequently asked how their businesses operate and about industry best practices.

In the case of cannabis delivery, this couldn’t be more clear.

In Sacramento alone, there are up to 180 delivery companies operating on any given day, and before the passage of Proposition 64 and the local regulatory effort, there was no significant conversation about it. That is, until a coalition of delivery companies in the area, which operate under their own strict guidelines, started a grassroots lobbying effort to make sure they weren’t left behind.

The California Cannabis Courier Association (CCCA) was founded to educate policymakers and community members on cannabis delivery practices and dispel any myths about the industry. They were shocked to discover that despite being attributed to over half of all medical cannabis sales in California, delivery is largely left out of current laws and regulations coming from the state’s Capitol and agencies.

And that’s a big problem for a variety of reasons:

1. Accessibility

Delivery companies currently cater to some of the most vulnerable in California. Many individuals suffer from chronic illness, unmanageable pain and lack of mobility, among other ailments. These businesses allow medicinal cannabis to be delivered to an individual’s doorstep, after undergoing a stringent patient verification processes.

2. Social Equity & Economic Opportunity

Cannabis delivery has relatively low start-up costs and presents low barriers to entry for young entrepreneurs from a variety of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. Where diversity is a major concern for other sectors of the industry, including the serious lack of women and people of color owning storefront dispensaries, delivery includes a robust amount of women-and-minority-owners from a variety of backgrounds.

The state regulations as they are currently in print propose to exclusively allow existing dispensaries to deliver; it is clear this would limit diversity and would transfer over half of the market share of cannabis sales to businesses who lack the infrastructure and capacity.

3. Public Safety

Understandably, the safety of employees and consumers is a major concern for all sectors of the cannabis industry. In the case of storefront dispensaries, many communities have concerns related to blight, robberies and other issues surrounding walk-in cannabis retail in their area.

Delivery companies were formed to address these concerns. Association members adhere to strict policies and guidelines for driver and consumer safety, drive unmarked cars with lab-tested product safely stored out of sight, and deliver directly to verified addresses after checking identification.

It’s a sector of the cannabis industry that’s got a lot of pros, but of course, there are also cons.

As mentioned earlier, Sacramento alone has nearly 200 delivery companies operating at any time. Currently, the vast majority do not operate to the level that members of the CCCA do. In fact, many are selling potentially unsafe and untested product, out of their homes or vehicles, using commercially uninsured drivers, and not verifying patient recommendations.

The need for regulation and safety is apparent.

Luckily for patients and cannabis delivery companies across the state, the CCCA has coordinated an effort to educate and lobby lawmakers from the Governor’s office, to the Legislature, to state agencies, to localities on the importance of allowing a well-regulated cannabis delivery sector. They have developed detailed best practices and have even drafted an ordinance based on the successful Portland, Oregon delivery model, for the lawmakers to use as a baseline.

We’re excited to see what the future holds in their effort to #DefendDelivery.

[divider] [/divider]

Caity Maple: Policy Nerd. Politico. Hiker. Food Enthusiast. Dog Lover. Women’s Advocate. Thought Leader. Champion For Change. Follow her on Twitter @caitymaple.