California Is Fine With You Smoking Weed, But Not If A Drone Delivers The Order


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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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As California readies itself for a change in marijuana policy, it recently laid out a number of rules centered around the now-recreationally legal substance, including forbidding it be transported on a drone.

The Bureau of Cannabis Control, part of the California Department of Consumer Affairs, said distributors of cannabis and related products will be required to transfer such goods through a commercial vehicle or trailer.

“Transportation may not be done by aircraft, watercraft, rail, drones, human powered vehicles, or unmanned vehicles,” the official regulations state. “Vehicles used for transporting cannabis goods must contain a box that can be locked and that is secured to the inside of the vehicle or trailer.”

It also added other stipulations, including products must be locked in the box at all times, the vehicle cannot be left unattended with goods in tow, and a GPS device must be equipped and active during the entire distribution process.

Pharmaceutical narcotics can be shipped via mail, which now includes unmanned vehicle delivery, but marijuana has to be transported with a human-operated car. So while startups in the cannabis industry can continue or soon start their business operations, they will not be able to explore the advent of the relatively nascent drone industry, which seems to have benefits for commercial distribution operations.

Startups like Eaze and MDelivers have both demonstrated drone distribution capabilities for their marijuana delivery services, but will likely have to rethink their methods if they wish to comply with state law.

In fact, MDelivers boasted in an April blog post that while “larger delivery services including Amazon and Uber” were prohibited, “in a remarkable upset, [it] was able to get both state and federal authorization for unmanned delivery by applying the same tenacity needed to gain medical marijuana permits.” But with California’s latest declaration of rules, that regulatory victory may be short-lived.

Legal marijuana is estimated to become a $5 billion asset to California, potentially bolstering an already powerful state economy. California officials will start to formally issue licenses for businesses and research institutes Jan. 1, 2018.

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