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California outlaws drone weed deliveries before they exist

by Josh Marcus
Sep 12 2017, 7:49am

California regulators are outlawing the delivery of recreational weed by drone in the state before it’s even had a chance to—ahem—get off the ground.

Voters in the Golden State legalized recreational marijuana in November, making it the largest state to do so thus far, but emergency regulations from the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control released last week explicitly forbid drone delivery—as well as weed transported by mail, bike, train, or boat, for that matter.

The effort comes as part of the state’s race to craft recreational regulations before a January 1, 2018, deadline to start issuing retail licenses.

For now, if you want your recreational pot delivered in California, you’ll have to stick with a lousy, non-avian, human being in a GPS-tracked vehicle.

Following the ballot initiative in November, a number of weed-delivery companies, including some with serious venture-backed funding, toyed with on-demand drone delivery schemes that would bring the state’s $7 billion weed market its product from the skies.

One, MDelivers, even said it had state permission to do so in April.

These companies are part of a wider effort from more established players like Amazon, who have been as-of-yet unsuccessfully pushing for legal drone delivery in the U.S.

For now, drone delivery won’t fly, especially for weed in California. Instead, the state is pursuing a tight regulatory framework that may include nearly 20 different types of licenses and digital “seed-to-sale” tracking.

This effort hasn’t been free from turbulence though. Earlier this year, California lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown tousled over plans, which ultimately passed, to merge medical and recreational marijuana regulations.

California isn’t alone in wrangling over who can transport its weed either. Nevada has been locked in a bitter legal firefight over who has the rights to move product since the moment sales started in July, one that has now made it all the way up to the state Supreme Court without resolution.