Let’s be fair and do things right on cannabis delivery framework

By Sieh “Chief” Samura
Special to the Reporter

First, the good news. In April, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) voted to move forward on a cannabis delivery framework for the state’s legal market. And while the details of the program have been delayed again, it’s important to get the job done right as legal delivery is vitally important. If we don’t have robust licensed delivery you can rest assured that unlicensed and potentially illegal delivery will thrive.

Now, the not-so-good news. The program as currently proposed by the CCC will not work. I know because I delivered cannabis in the grey market for years, and recently talked about this experience on Good Morning America. Here is what I learned from that time:

Delivering cannabis is one of the hardest parts of the business. For sure it is a great way to grow and supplement an existing store, but as a standalone business, it stinks. Think about it: Do you know any small businesses whose only service is to pick up orders from independent stores and take them to shoppers? Sure, there are giant companies like FedEx and armies of gig-workers that drive for Amazon, but standalone mom and pop businesses? No. Now, add on all the expensive rules and regulations these entrepreneurs would have to face under the CCC’s proposed regulations.

Under the proposed framework, each delivery car must have two drivers, doubling employee costs with no added safety benefit. These additional costs would undoubtedly be passed on to the consumer, putting cannabis delivery far out of reach for most consumers. And what, exactly, is that extra employee supposed to do? In my experience, one driver can get the job done perfectly well, and safely.

Cars must also be hard wired with multiple cameras and drivers would be required to wear body cameras; they would be walking surveillance drones, recording every interaction with customers and their personal property. This is another unnecessary and costly expense. Plus, it is downright creepy. Where does all this video surveillance go and who is responsible if it is stolen or leaked? Is the CCC really asking economic empowerment and social equity applicants to run surveillance companies? 

FedEx drivers – who can deliver guns, opioids, liquor, tobacco products, and everything in between – don’t have to comply with these requirements. Why do we think small businesses can, or should have to? We’re talking about delivering a plant, not plutonium.  

Bottom line, the CCC’s proposed regulations create high-cost barriers to entry for the very applicants delivery is supposed to uplift.

In a state which bans commercial-plated vehicles on many residential streets, the requirement to have all deliveries take place in commercial-plated vehicles is not only a safety issue for drivers but it is also an access issue for patients. What are patients supposed to do if they live on a street that doesn’t allow commercial-plated vehicles...or don’t have access to a car to get to a dispensary...or are so ill it’s difficult for them to use public transportation? The CCC is essentially making it impossible for those patients to get the medicine they need to live a comfortable and fulfilling life. 

Do not make Massachusetts medical patients suffer or make drivers targets by requiring drivers to carry external signage. Use smart technology, like GPS tracking and digital recording of all sales, to make sure that products are only delivered to legal adults. Law enforcement can easily use these records if needed.

Finally, allow entrepreneurs the ability to purchase and maintain their own, limited inventory of legally obtained cannabis so that they can complete more and faster deliveries. This will not only provide better customer service, but it will also cut down on unwanted back and forth driving and wasted gas.

The CCC understands, correctly, that people who took the brunt of the government’s war on drugs should have the opportunity to participate in this new legal, voter-approved market. But we can’t survive and thrive within a framework that is unworkable. There is still time to build a great system that supports these entrepreneurs and also delivers a great service for customers. But a different approach than that currently being considered must be taken. 

It is truly a shame that the CCC left consideration of economic empowerment and social equity applicants to the very end, but that doesn’t mean we should settle for a raw deal. Now’s the time to make this right.

Sieh Samura, better known as “Chief,” is a cannabis consumer rights activist who lives in Mattapan.