California To Ban Drones And Bots From Delivering Legal Cannabis
As California revs up for recreational cannabis next year, lawmakers are laying down rules for how the plant can reach consumers.
Last week, California's Bureau of Cannabis Control released a set of regulations aimed to determine how commercial cannabis businesses can operate once recreational weed becomes a reality. Among thousands of other things, the early document establishes that the booming cannabis delivery industry must operate within certain parameters, including by making sure products are hidden en route and generally keeping a low profile [PDF].
As Ars Technica first noticed, the regulations also make clear that delivering cannabis to customers using either aerial drones or autonomous (land-based) robots will be off-limits--despite the fact that some cannabis retailers have expressed interest or intent toward doing so. And the limits on mobilizing marijuana don't end there: according to the California document, "Transportation may not be done by aircraft, watercraft, rail, drones, human-powered vehicles, or unmanned vehicles."
Instead, the new guidelines would require that cannabis delivery be performed by a human being--which, ultimately, could likely allow for a better service experience (at least until cannabis chatbots are fully up to speed).
See also: Cannabis Shows Promise In Treating Schizophrenia And Tourette Syndrome
An autonomous parcel delivery robot, developed by Starship Technologies, travels along a path at Greenwich Peninsula in London, U.K., on Tuesday, April 11, 2017. (Credit: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)
Specifically, the regulations establish that deliveries "may be made only in person by enclosed motor vehicle," and that cannabis goods "may not be visible to the public during deliveries ... [nor] left in an unattended motor vehicle unless the vehicle has an active alarm system."
Meanwhile, those vehicles used for cannabis delivery must also have "a dedicated, active GPS device that enables the dispensary to identify the geographic location of the vehicle during delivery."
With the state's 2018 deadline for legalization approaching, California administrators have spent the past few months sorting out a regulatory framework for cannabis through an "emergency rulemaking process" that bypasses the usual collection of public input. "Otherwise, they’d miss a mandated Jan. 2 deadline to begin issuing licenses for cannabis businesses and allow recreational marijuana sales to start in the biggest market in the world," explained the California Cannabis Portal.
As California's legalization date grows nearer, lawmakers will no doubt hear feedback anyway from the numerous big companies whose interest in autonomous deliveries extends beyond the cannabis field, including Amazon and Google. Given the state's protective stance on its new industry and current FAA guidelines for aerial drones, however, it seems likely that California's cannabis deliveries will remain human-requisite come 2018.
But as Ars Technica pointed out, Californians can at least choose to get a pizza delivered autonomously afterward.