Delivery Drivers Targeted for Cannabis Crackdown in California

Published on October 8, 2018 · Last updated February 23, 2022
Delivery Drivers Targeted for Marijuana Crackdown in California (Blablo101/iStock)
Delivery Drivers Targeted for Marijuana Crackdown in California (Blablo101/iStock)

San Diego remains a risky place to courier cannabis without a state and local license, more folks learned this October.

Authorities announced the arrest of two people they suspect ran Leaf Life delivery service out of their home, seizing 50 pounds of products, and $3,500 in cash.

San Diego might lead the state in delivery busts — the city’s been at it for nearly a generation, ever since medical legalization in 1996.Breaking the Law Not Your Thing?

  • In August, San Diego authorities announced the arrest of 34 people, seizing 230 pounds and $60,000 in cash.
  • In June, San Diego authorities say they caught five people running Fast Grass delivery with 30 pounds of weed, four grams of meth, and $1,800 in cash.

Los Angeles also makes delivery interdiction a priority. In September, Los Angeles announced a nine-month arrest tally of 515 people, comprising 101 delivery businesses.

State officials at the Bureau of Cannabis Control also began delivery enforcement this summer.

Limited Legal Options, High Demand, Fuel Delivery Trade

Few legal options, plus huge cannabis demand create profits for weed couriers.

California ranks number one in cannabis consumers in the United States, which is partially why the state legalized it in 2016. But two years after that historic vote, access to legal cannabis remains spotty in many portions of the state.

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Legalization passed with 57 percent of the vote. But just a quarter of the state’s cities and counties allow retail stores and delivery, experts estimate. Cities demand local control over the cannabis trade, but few have the skills or money to regulate it, they say.

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For more than a decade, medical cannabis delivery has remained nigh unstoppable in California. Police have expressed frustration at playing whack-a-mole. Now it’s recreational, too. Anyone with a mobile phone, access to the internet and bud can get rolling.

A Legal Solution, or More Seizures

Dozens of licensed cannabis delivery services can drop statewide, under current rules by the Bureau of Cannabis Control.

More legal delivery options could draw consumers away from the illicit market, some say.

But police, cities, and a cannabis union of physical stores are pressuring the BCC to ban licensed statewide delivery. Police continue to say licensed delivery options will be less safe than the current delivery wild west.

Others disagree. Licensed cannabis delivery drivers have to follow multiple pages of state and local rules, which some say are tighter than the regulation of police firearms. Those rules control time, place and manner of delivery; limit cash and inventory in the vehicle; and mandate both lockboxes and location tracking systems.

More legal delivery options could draw consumers away from the illicit market, some say.

That upsets a status quo that includes state asset forfeiture  laws, which allow police to seize cars, homes and cash used to commit marijuana crimes.

The delivery cat and mouse game will continue in the near term, amplified by demand for both cannabis and enforcement.

On one side, consumers often can’t tell the difference between a licensed courier and an unlicensed one.

On the other, some of the biggest calls for courier crackdowns now come from brick-and-mortar cannabis shops. Many licensed physical store owners say illicit deliveries hurt their business.

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David Downs
David Downs
Leafly Senior Editor David Downs is the former Cannabis Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. He's appeared on The Today Show, and written for Scientific American, The New York Times, WIRED, Rolling Stone, The Onion A/V Club, High Times, and many more outlets. He is a 2023 judge for The Emerald Cup, and has covered weed since 2009.
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