California Plans to Ban Marijuana Drone Deliveries

Marijuana Drone DeliveryCalifornia voters approved Proposition 64, which made the recreational use of marijuana by residents over 21 years old legal. In less than four months to go, state officials have to make sure the new regulation becomes a reality by establishing a legal and regulatory framework to guide distribution and consumption of marijuana in the state.

Drones delivering pizza, beer, and Amazon orders might be right around the corner, but don’t get your hopes up for weed delivery by robots or drones. On Wednesday, the California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control released regulatory rules to control commercial cannabis businesses by Jan. 1 2018—this is the date that marijuana sales will be allowed for recreational use in California.

The Bureaus new regulations will ban drones from delivering marijuana in California. As Ars Technica noticed, the new law made it clear that delivering cannabis to consumers using both aerial drones or land-based robots will be off-limits. The regulation was created in spite of the expression of intent by some cannabis retailers who planned on using drones for deliveries.

The limitations on distribution of marijuana doesn’t end there: according to the new regulatory document, the distribution cannot be done by aircraft, rail, drones, unmanned vehicles, watercraft, or human-powered vehicles. Cannabis products must be transported in commercial vehicles or trailers.

These rules will negatively impact some marijuana start-ups who plan to use drones for deliveries. Under the new rules, deliveries can only be undertaken by licensed marijuana retailers in person using enclosed motor vehicles. The vehicle used for deliveries must have a GPS that lets the seller track the package. The Bureau also explicitly states that during delivery, the goods cannot be visible to the public or left unattended unless the vehicle has an alarm system. Also, consumption of the substance will not be allowed during delivery.

Some believe that the ‘human’ requirement is reasonable and may eventually promote a better service experience in the industry (at least until it becomes more stable). But the restriction of bicycles, jet skis, and aerial drones, maybe somewhat of a problem for some retailers.

The regulations differ from federal drone laws, which allows packages to be delivered by drones as long as the aerial device is within the pilot’s eyesight, does not fly over people, and weighs less than 55lbs. However, Federal regulations still prohibit drone pilots from delivering marijuana.

With California’s January 2018 deadline for legalization fast approaching, state administrators have spent the last few months developing a regulatory framework for cannabis via an “emergency rule making process” that bypassed the usual collection of public opinion. The process is to ensure that they don’t miss a mandatory January 2nd deadline for the issuance of licenses to cannabis businesses.

California is the biggest economy in the US and its legal marijuana industry could be worth over $5 billion. Licenses for cannabis distributors, testing labs, retailers, and other businesses will be issued from January 1st, 2018.

As the date grows nearer for California residents, lawmakers expect to get some feedback from this service industry and from companies whose interest in deliveries goes far beyond the cannabis industry. Given the state’s protective stance and current FAA rules for aerial drones, it seems probable that California’s cannabis deliveries will still remain a human-requisite as 2018 approaches.


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