Person smoking weed

Cannabis not to be delivered by drone or self-driving car, California rules

Image credit: Dreamstime

The state regulator for cannabis in California has released guidelines which explicitly forbid the delivery of medical or recreational cannabis using anything other than commercial vehicles or trailers.

Medical marijuana has been permitted in California since 1996 and following a November 2016 referendum, in which 57 per cent of voters expressed approval for “Proposition 64”, the state government conceded to the legalisation of marijuana for recreational use.

The California Bureau of Cannabis Control, the state body responsible for regulating cannabis use, was established in 2015 and will oversee the move towards full legislation. On January 1 2018, the regulator will begin issuing retail licenses for businesses hoping to establish themselves in the non-medical market for marijuana.

The Bureau is in the process of developing regulations for responsible cannabis distribution and consumption under the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act. In its newly-released licensing regulations, the regulator has explicitly stated that marijuana may only be distributed under specific conditions, forbidding any novel kind of distribution.

“Cannabis goods will be required to be transported inside commercial vehicles or trailers. Transportation may not be done by aircraft, watercraft, rail, drones, human-powered vehicles or unmanned vehicles,” the Bureau states.

The regulations require for secure and responsible delivery: the drug may not be publicly visible and must never be left unattended. Delivery vehicles must have a “dedicated, active GPS device”, enabling the deliveries to be tracked.

The Bureau has also specified that cannabis couriers are not permitted to consume the drug while carrying out a delivery.

Following the “Yes” vote on Proposition 64, a number of start-ups have emerged, hoping to carve out a brand-new space in the drone delivery market, along with established delivery firms. These include Eaze, M Delivers and Trees Delivery.

In April, Eaze – which is known as the “Uber for weed” and offers rapid delivery of medical marijuana – demonstrated the “Drone Lifted Experience” in San Bernardino, California.

These start-ups hoped that the relaxation of federal rules regarding drone operations could allow for them to begin the autonomous delivery of cannabis. The US Federal Aviation Administration requires all drones to fly within the line of sight of its operator, meaning that it could have been assumed that drone-delivered cannabis was never going to be an option.

In recent years, drones have been used to smuggle cannabis and other substances to convicts in British, American and Canadian prisons, where they can be sold to other prisoners for significant profit.

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