Massachusetts residents may soon be able to order marijuana to their front door.
Last week, the state’s Cannabis Control Commission approved new rules that pave the way for companies to deliver recreational marijuana directly to customers. The regulations, which were adopted Tuesday, created a new type of license for marijuana delivery companies.
Delivery has already been allowed for registered medical marijuana patients. But allowing it for recreational customers — while not required by the 2016 ballot measure legalizing the drug — would give legal operators a chance to provide a service that is currently still dominated by black market dealers, according to CCC officials.
“Marijuana is here, has been here, and it’s not going away,” CCC Commissioner Britte McBride wrote in a recent opinion piece for CommonWealth magazine. “Illegal delivery services are openly competing against licensed, regulated, taxpaying businesses, and that demands our response.”
Well, the commission officially responded last week. Here’s what comes next.
Who will be able to get the license?
For the first two years, the CCC will only give delivery licenses to applicants in their social equity program, as well as small, locally owned businesses that CCC officials have approved for delivery.
The reason for the two-year exclusivity period (which starts when the first delivery license is issued) is rooted in the CCC’s efforts to promote small and minority entrepreneurs — particularly given how marijuana prohibition disproportionately harmed black and Latino communities — in an industry that faces encroaching dominance by big corporations. Officials have noted that delivery companies generally require less start-up costs than full-fledged dispensaries, providing a prime opportunity to encourage participation.
Applicants in the CCC’s social equity program, which provides assistance to prospective companies, must be recent residents of a community that qualifies as “an area of disproportionate impact” and have an income that doesn’t exceed 400 percent of the federal poverty level; a recent drug conviction; or a spouse or parent with a recent drug conviction.
After the first two years, the CCC will have the option of extending the exclusivity period for an additional year, if their equity goals are not yet met.
Unless they’re a microbusiness that grows their own cannabis, marijuana delivery companies will be transporting someone’s else product; the new rules require them to sign contracts with licensed retailers.
So how will the actual deliveries work?
Just like food-delivery apps, with a few more steps and safeguards.
Before placing their first order, adult-use customers will have to visit the dispensary from which they want to order to verify their age and identity, providing a government-issued ID showing they’re over 21. And when their delivery arrives, they’ll have to confirm their age and identity again before their order is handed over. Delivery companies are legally required to give the order to the specific person who placed it.
The new regulations limit deliveries to between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. — so late-night orders will be illegal — and customers won’t be able to make more than one order a day. Delivery employees, who are required to at least travel in pairs, will also be monitored by GPS to make sure orders go to the right place.
The same limits on in-person purchases also apply for deliveries, meaning no more than 1 ounce of marijuana or its equivalent (individual dispensaries may also set lower limits).
Cash payments will be allowed, though the new regulations look to minimize them. The rules call for delivery companies to try to implement electronic or online payment systems. That likely means a debit card or a marijuana-specific payment app like CanPay, since credit card companies have been reluctant to enter the still-federally prohibited industry.
In addition to trying to minimize the amount of cash that delivery employees have on them, the new rules also stipulate that they cannot transport more than $10,000 worth of marijuana at a time, due to fears about potential robbery attempts.
Delivery employees will also be required to wear body cameras. While the plan has drawn criticism from privacy advocates, CCC officials say the body cameras are needed to keep employees safe. Law enforcement will be able to access the videos with a valid court order or search warrant.
Delivery companies will be required to keep the videos for 30 days and are not allowed to share them with a third party, besides law enforcement. Unless the videos are subject to an official investigation, the regulations require companies to delete the body camera videos after the 30-day period.
Where will deliveries be allowed?
Not everyone will be able to order home-delivery weed.
Deliveries won’t be allowed at college dorms and other university housing, hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, federally subsidized housing, and shelters. Customers also can’t order deliveries to places other than their primary residence — so ordering marijuana to a friend’s party will be off the table.
Additionally, deliveries won’t be allowed in the many Massachusetts cities and towns that have banned retail marijuana sales, unless their officials decide otherwise. Municipal officials in those communities would have to tell the CCC if they want to allow deliveries.
When does it start?
That depends on the applicants. But it will likely be a matter of months.
Just like other prospective marijuana companies, applicants for delivery licenses still will have to go through the state and local approval processes. CCC chairman Steve Hoffman told reporters last week that the first step for the agency is developing the application itself and putting it up on their website.
“Delivery is still going to take awhile,” he said. “We still have to make sure that we’ve got the applications on our site. Applicants have to go through municipal processes in terms of getting host community agreements.”
Hoffman noted that the local host community agreement process remains out of the CCC’s hands.
“It will be a couple of months,” he said, when asked how long it might be before the commission starts considering applications.