California Court Says No Drones for Marijuana Deliveries

Where are Cheech and Chong when we need them?

"Hey man, am I driving OK?" Cheech asks in the 1978 classic, "Up In Smoke."

Chong, his partner in cannabis crime, looks around their smoke-filled car and then answers: "I think we're parked, man."

Since California has ruled that marijuana deliveries may be made only by people in motor vehicles, it has snuffed out other means of transporting the drug. It's no laughing matter to companies that make drones and other autonomous vehicles.

No Drones, Stoners

The California Bureau of Cannabis Control, which is charged with regulating marijuana use after voters approved it for recreational purposes last year, is rolling out the new rules before it becomes legal on Jan. 1, 2018.

"Transportation may not be done by aircraft, watercraft, rail, drones, human-powered vehicles, or unmanned vehicles," the bureau announced in regulations unveiled this week.

After the laws take effect, the bureau anticipates issuing 11,500 retail licenses the first year alone. It is predicted to be the next Gold Rush in California, but not for everyone.

Ars Technica reports that the ban on autonomous deliveries is a "buzzkill" for start-ups like MDelivers, Eaze, Trees Deliver and other companies that have promised drone delivery of marijuana.

Munchies Yes, Pot No

The rules seem incongruent to some in the delivery business, especially since you can already get pizza delivered to your house by drone. Amazon, which recently bought Whole Foods, has plans to deliver more by drone.

Even pharmaceuticals can be delivered by mail. But the new regulations treat marijuana differently.

"Cannabis goods may not be visible to the public during deliveries," the rules say. "Cannabis goods may not be left in an unattended motor vehicle unless the vehicle has an active alarm system. Vehicles used for delivery must have a dedicated, active GPS device that enables the dispensary to identify the geographic location of the vehicle during delivery."

Oh, and deliveries may be made "only in person by enclosed motor vehicle." That means drone delivery for cannabis is pretty much up in smoke.

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