Deliver This: California’s Muddled Medical Marijuana Laws

In 1996, California voters passed the Compassionate Use Act (Prop 215) allowing for the use of medical cannabis. However, and unfortunately, it wasn’t very clear on exactly how that would be accomplished. This has led to conflicts with the Federal government, who still classifies it as a Schedule 1 prohibited substance, banks (who risk money laundering charges for dealing with businesses who are complaint with state law), taxing authorities and many other players. 

Some of these conflicts will soon be addressed via three bills recently passed by the California legislature (collectively referred to as “MMSRA”), but even these “solutions” are likely more than a year away from being implemented. In the meantime, we can expect more and more stories like this one concerning medical marijuana delivery services.

Californian state law has no explicit provision for delivery services. They are justified on the grounds that many patients lack transportation and cannot grow for themselves. But this is a justification and not a law. As with dispensaries, for now the state is leaving it up to local authorities on how they want to handle them. 

In Oakland, one would think this would not be an issue. However it is. Delivery services are currently banned. According to one such delivery service who was arguing for Oakland to relax the delivery ban by writing:

[Delivery services] operate in the shadows, without the protection of clear laws that are established for the brick and mortars…

[Authorizing them] will help to build relationships with law enforcement, incentivize cannabis businesses to develop high-level operating standards, and enable those businesses to contribute to the city’s tax base….

Our [delivery] collective works hard to serve our patients seven days a week without the benefit of angel investors, police protection, or even a clear legal framework…

[Dispensary] permit limits encourage an unfair advantage in Oakland’s cannabis industry and stall the growth opportunities for brave new collectives.

The authors of Prop 215 more than 20 years ago had no idea of the inventiveness and entrepreneurialism that would integrate and invigorate the medical marijuana industry. But the genie is out of the bottle. If consumers can order pretty much anything they want and get it the next day via Amazon, the ability to do the same with cannabis is an inevitability. As with cannabis itself, cities are will be better off regulating and taxing delivery services instead of ignoring them and driving them back into the shadows. 

By: Wesley