Cannabis deliveries would solve a lot of problems
Tools are there to address concerns about safety, compliance
THE CANNABIS CONTROL COMMISSION’S impending listening sessions on cannabis delivery are a welcome sign of progress for adult use in Massachusetts. While legal cannabis products have been available for purchase for a few months, we remain well short of making it truly accessible. Policymakers have stressed that they want to get it right, and that’s a valid desire, but extreme caution has led to scant accessibility, especially for those who cannot travel to an open dispensary. This is particularly true for those communities most affected by prohibition.
However, there is a solution. With the rate of dispensary openings occurring at a slow drip, delivery provides an avenue to increase access without disrupting municipal affairs. California has already shown that, done right, cannabis delivery is safe and sustainable. Right here in the Commonwealth, we allow delivery for medical patients and there has not been a single documented compliance issue to date. The blueprint for delivery exists, it just requires action.
Delivery can solve many of the challenges the market has faced to date. When Cultivate opened in Leicester back in November, the town was overrun by customers excited to participate in the newly legal market. The fact that Cultivate was one of the first adult use dispensaries (along with Northampton’s NETA) was surely a factor, but it also revealed the volume of interest. While subsequent openings have learned from this – ATG in Salem instituted an appointment system – it shed light on multiple ways that delivery can provide value. Had delivery been available, many would have undoubtedly chosen that option.
Managing large crowds requires the utilization of public resources, namely law enforcement. While police in Leicester were compensated for their time by the dispensary, their presence meant they could not handle other matters, or spend time with their families. Because Leicester is not well-suited to handle crowds of this magnitude, the congestion brought tremendous disruptions to the business community and residents. This resulted in animosity toward Cultivate and its customers, who had to wait out in the cold for hours on end. This is not Cultivate’s fault. They were undoubtedly doing the best they could to meet the massive consumer demand while maintaining compliance.
Bringing delivery into the fold gives cannabis businesses valuable options as they look to meet the increasing consumer demand. For example, while some may opt for a retail storefront that includes delivery, others may choose to operate on a delivery-only model, an option that would be less capital intensive. Furthermore, the delivery-only model addresses crowd control and community impact, because it doesn’t require people to come in to the store. It also provides a workaround for municipalities considering banning cannabis businesses outright by allowing them to locate in more discrete areas. Business owners, meanwhile, aren’t forced to rely on foot or vehicle traffic, and can set up operations in less pricey real estate.
For customers, safe, legal delivery is a critically important option, especially for those who face mobility challenges. Not all people have the means or ability to physically wait in long lines or to accommodate an appointment, and it is wrong to exclude them from the market. While medical patients are not subject to the same waiting as recreational customers, seeing the long times to enter a dispensary could be off-putting for someone who suffers from anxiety or any number of other health complications. Avoiding disruptions for this vulnerable community should be a priority.
Delivery is not without its detractors and the Cannabis Advisory Board’s discussions on this topic made that abundantly clear. The commonly cited concerns include identification verification of customers; avoiding diversions; driver safety; and tracking of vehicles, product, and cash.
Each of these are valid points to raise, but are easily addressed through regulations that ensure safety and compliance. Multiple forms of age verification can and should be instituted. Live manifests of in-car inventory can and should be required. Cars should have GPS tracking. These are just some of the available tools to make sure delivery is done right. Critics also fail to acknowledge that allowing the illicit market to be the only delivery game in town helps to keep it afloat. Keeping cannabis accessible and convenient is a strong deterrent against patronizing the black market and promotes safety in addition to boosting tax revenue that can be invested in our communities.The listening sessions on cannabis delivery are welcomed, if not overdue. If we are going to truly realize the will of the people as they voted when Question 4 passed in 2016, we need to ensure that legal cannabis is available to all eligible adults regardless of location, means, or ability. Without delivery we continue to fall short.
Maggie Kinsella is the press secretary for MassCann, the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition.