California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control says that cannabis and cannabis products may not be delivered by “aircraft, watercraft, rail, drones, human powered vehicles, or unmanned vehicles.”
The news is disappointing to some drone delivery startups who planned the service. On April 1st of this year – note the date – San Diego-based MDelivers, one of few permitted marijuana delivery services in California, claimed to have “successfully launched the nation’s first fully-licensed drone delivery service.”
“The unmanned aerial vehicles will provide on-demand cannabis to medical marijuana patients across most of California in anticipation of recreational use in 2018,” says the blog post.
The April 1st post starts to look like a spoof to the drone industry with this quote by the company: “After navigating the complexities of medical marijuana permitting, the state and FAA licensing process was actually pretty simple. Nobody can jump in at the 11th hour and rewrite the laws of aerodynamics.”, Chris Boudreau, CEO and founder explained.
While MDelivers may have been joking in April, Mashable reported in August that another startup, Trees.Delivery was working introduce drone delivery to customers. The company offers a monthly subscription box of cannabis products to customers in San Francisco, and told the magazine that they had purchased a fleet of three drones in anticipation of favorable regulations. The Mashable article points out that while in some ways pot is an ideal product for drone delivery, because of its light weight, it might also be an easy target for theft.
Drone delivery specifically is not strictly illegal in the United States, but other regulations such as restrictions on flight beyond visual line of sight and flight over people have made it impracticable except on FAA test sites. Test flights in the US have successfully delivered a range of products from medical supplies to Chipotle burritos and 7-Eleven Slurpees.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.