California Tightens Up Pot Delivery Regulations, Takes Aim At Drones

By Kelly Burch 09/13/17

A new set of regulations is going to make it harder for the handful of California businesses who are trying to deliver pot in unique ways. 

a drone flying through the sky with a delivery

The legalization of recreational marijuana has brought up a host of policy issues—from the question of who has the right to distribute pot, to how to tell if drivers are under the influence. California legislators are hoping to get ahead of some of these questions before issuing dispensary licenses next year, so they came together this month to lay down the rules—and decided that marijuana cannot be delivered by drones. 

The proclamation was part of the Commercial Cannabis Business Licensing Program Regulations released by the state. "Transportation may not be done by aircraft, watercraft, rail, drones, human-powered vehicles, or unmanned vehicles,” the regulations read, according to Ars Technica

While deliveries will be allowed, they must adhere to the following guidelines:

“Deliveries may be made only in person by enclosed motor vehicle. Cannabis goods may not be visible to the public during deliveries. Cannabis goods may not be left in an unattended motor vehicle unless the vehicle has an active alarm system. Vehicles used for delivery must have a dedicated, active GPS device that enables the dispensary to identify the geographic location of the vehicle during delivery.” 

The news will be a disappointment to the handful of businesses in California that have already promised marijuana deliveries by drone. One company, MDelivers, said that the “opportunity was unmistakable.”

However, the company’s CEO did not count on lawmakers forbidding drone deliveries. “After navigating the complexities of medical marijuana permitting, the state and FAA licensing process was actually pretty simple. Nobody can jump in at the 11th hour and rewrite the laws of aerodynamics,” Chris Boudreau, CEO and founder of MDelivers said in a blog post before the regulations were announced. 

With the new rules, there's no telling how entrepreneurs will get marijuana to their customers in new and interesting ways. “We may see a vending machine attached to a self-driving car before we see a drone,” Marshall Hayner, CEO of Trees Delivery, told Mashable

While California prepares to expand its cannabis market, keeping the legal bud inside the Golden State will be a challenge for anti-marijuana folks who worry that it will cross state lines illegally. This has already been a concern for states where pot has already been legal for recreational use for a number of years now—like Colorado and Oregon. 

These states are trying to address the marijuana diversion issue by requiring pot businesses to track their product from "seed to store."

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.