There are more than a few sketchy pot stores among the thousands of licensed dispensaries spread across the 23 states and DC where medical marijuana has been legalized. Fortunately, you can just have your weed order delivered. All you need is a green card, the Internet, and cash.
During the early days of the MMJ green rush, especially in California, it seemed that anybody with a heartbeat and a weed hook could open up a dispensary. So while shops like the Green Cross or Harborside Medical Center are shining paragons of responsible medical marijuana operations, this led to a lot of disreputable pot shops popping up in sketchy neighborhoods.
The DEA has since cracked down on these operations, especially in San Francisco and Los Angeles, through a series of crackdowns and the passage of Prop D in LA last year, which shutters stores and punishes their landlords should the business be improperly licensed or too close to prohibited structures like day care centers, libraries, and schools.
While these enforcement efforts look good on paper and help increase the prominence of the politicians that instigate them, they didn’t curb cannabis sales—just changed the method of delivery.
Former dispensary owners found themselves with a big stockpile of buds but no storefront to sell them. So they took their businesses mobile, directly leading to the explosion of cannabis delivery services— has nearly tripled nationwide over the last three years, from 877 to more than 2,600 today, according to Weedmaps, a tool to help locate dispensaries near you.
The first thing that you’ll need, obviously, is residency in a state where medical marijuana is legal. There are 23 of them, ranging all across the country from Alaska to Maine, with Washington and Colorado having legalized marijuana outright.
Next, you’ll need a prescription. The signup process differs from state to state, with fees ranging from $15 - $200 for the issuance of an MMJ “green card,” though no matter where you live, you’ll absolutely need a note from your doctor. Sorry, did I say your doctor? I meant a doctor. Except for in Hawaii and Oregon, the doctor’s recommendation does not necessarily have to come from your primary care physician—any old doctor’s opinion will do. You can do with that information what you will.
The legality of home cannabis delivery services is equally patchwork, with some states fully allowing or banning it, while others, like California, have allowed individual counties to decide for themselves (not unlike the “dry counties” in Texas and Utah). This is why you’ll be hard pressed to find a marijuana dispensary LA county while delivery services like SpeedWeed make regular deliveries to the rich and famous.
Riverside, an expansive county east of LA, has, conversely, banned delivery services but still allows for storefront shops. Similarly, Seattle doesn’t allow for delivery services but doesn’t seem to mind courier services like ATM Delivery. In Alaska, the MMJ legislation is even more vague, neither allowing for nor prohibiting either dispensaries or delivery services to be operated within state bounds. Out of the MMJ states, only AK, DE, HW, MI, and WA appear to ban deliveries outright while NH, NY, and VT all allow it but their restrictions on the number of potential dispensaries within state bounds generally precludes anything but storefront ops. For the remaining states and DC, if the practice is verboten, it is so at the county or city level.
The mish-mash of contradictory legislation can be rather confusing, so you’ll do well to be thoroughly versed in your locale’s specific rules governing weed possession and purchases before attempting to have some delivered to your door. Seriously, if you are even remotely unsure on the local statutes regarding deliveries, review your state’s MMJ laws, ask the clinic that issued you your green card or your local storefront dispensary for advice. Just make sure you’re in the clear—legally—before calling in an order.
Once you’ve gotten through the legal and moral quagmire of obtaining a green card, it’s time to get down to business. But with thousands of delivery services available (and even more storefronts), which do you choose? And how do you even find them? Is it like The A-Team? Do you have to click your heels or put your lips together and blow? Thankfully, no. There are websites for this sort of thing nowadays.
Equal parts Wikipedia and Yellow Pages, Leafly angles itself as a singular source for online MMJ resources throughout the US and Canada—from map-based dispensary listings and exhaustive strain guides to topical news and feature articles. Users can create an account on the site, allowing them to follow local dispensaries, receive coupons and special discount offers, and track their favorite strains. There’s even an iOS and Android app if you want to get serious about tracking your intake.
If Leafly is the Wikipedia of weed, then Weedmaps is its Yelp. Simply input your current location and the site will return every dispensary, delivery service, ‘script doctor, and lab testing service within a 20 mile radius. Each result includes the shop’s contact information, store hours, most current menu items, and patient reviews. It too has its own iOS and Android apps.
Where’s Weed is extremely similar to Weedmaps, providing a graphical depiction of local dispensary, doctor, and delivery service locations across 17 states. It also allows patients to drill down search results by the type of weed, edible, or concentrate they prefer. And yes, of course it has its own WinPhone and Android apps.
Once you’ve decided upon a delivery service, the process is about as difficult as ordering from Seamless. Most dispensaries require you be a registered member of their co-op, so if this is your first time using the service, you’ll need to provide them with a copy of your doctor’s note (not just the green card itself) and some photo ID. It’s easiest to just snap a photo with your phone’s camera as soon as you get your recommendation. That way, even if you do lose the certificate itself, you won’t have to pay for a replacement when ordering online.
You’ll also need to be cognizant of payment methods. Here in California, for example, during the last round of crackdowns, the DEA banned credit cards for pot purchases—Visa, Mastercard, Amex all are forbidden from MMJ shops, so the process is cash-based out here. Some places will allow you to use a debit card and simply tack on a withdrawal fee like an ATM, especially delivery services. In Washington and Colorado, on the other hand, banking restrictions have been relaxed to the point where this is not an issue. When in doubt, bring cash.
Then there’s how and when you’re billed. If the service charges your card before you even see the buds you’re buying, clearly you’re at a disadvantage. If, say, the weed that’s delivered is all stems and seeds, you’re SOL because the service already has your money. This is not rocket science. If at all possible, use a service that either allows you to pay the driver in cash upon delivery or at least swipe your debit card using a Square-style reader, so that if the buds are bammer, you’ll have immediate recourse.
And always be sure to tip your delivery person—the poor souls have to navigate nightmarish traffic and absentminded stoners all day.
Top image: Wikimedia