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Sidecar Experiments With Medical Marijuana Delivery

Medical marijuana startup Meadow partners with Sidecar to bolster its weed delivery service.

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Sidecar may have been late to the ride-sharing market, but the upstart transportation company is intent on being early to a new and emerging business: marijuana delivery. The company has partnered with Meadow, a San Francisco–based medical marijuana outfit, to leverage its logistics and delivery operations to transport weed.

Meadow's pot delivery service is much like Sidecar's other same day delivery offerings — with a few important caveats. Sidecar drivers handling pot deliveries must be registered medical marijuana patients and members of the dispensary whose orders they're distributing. In this case, that's Apothecarium, a San Francisco medical cannabis dispensary established in 2011.

"There are a lot of reasons we wanted to partner with Sidecar," Meadow co-founder and CEO David Hua told BuzzFeed News. "Mainly, they're willing to work within necessary compliance regulations, both San Francisco law and California state laws. [And] they have a delivery network out there that's already processing orders both on [the] delivery side and passenger side."

Beyond medical marijuana credentials, Meadow is also looking for drivers with the sort of discretion expected by its clientele. "What you're finding is that people who are coming onto the platform want a more legitimate and safe experience than what they already have," Hua said. "We make sure it's professional and discreet." To that end, the company has helped Sidecar design an on-boarding curriculum intended to educate drivers in the nuances of medical marijuana delivery — and minimize the risks associated with it.

At the point of delivery, Meadow drivers are trained to verify that the person receiving the package is the same person who ordered it, and that they have documents to do so legally. "Every single driver has been through training for this and they all recognize the importance of complying with rules," Sidecar co-founder and CEO Sunil Paul told BuzzFeed News. "As a driver you have to affirmatively say you checked ID, and we take any reports of abuse or not complying with those rules very seriously."

Still, allowing delivery drivers and package recipients to complete these transactions in private could leave the Meadow-Sidecar system open to abuse. Paul said he doesn't think that will be a problem, though he conceded Sidecar could someday integrate a medical marijuana license scanner into its app as an additional security measure should its new service takes off.

So what if this service takes off? Does Sidecar have enough credentialed drivers to handle it? According to Paul, it does — though he refused to disclose a hard number. "We're comfortable saying that there's enough to satisfy the expected demand," he said.

And should demand increase and Meadow extend its reach into new markets? What then? Might it seek out an alliance with another larger ride-hailing company?

"I haven't thought about that," Hua said of partnering with Uber or Lyft. "Sidecar has been great, we have all the necessary infrastructure in place. What I think we should do is really double down and expand what we're doing with Sidecar into other markets. That's probably the right move."

But not an easy one. Currently, pot delivery services can operate legally only in certain cities in California. San Francisco is one of them, but it's a relatively short list after that. As BuzzFeed News recently reported, marijuana delivery is illegal in Los Angeles, San Jose, and all four of the states that have passed laws legalizing recreational marijuana use. For Meadow and Sidecar, expanding their weed delivery service beyond San Francisco may be difficult, if not impossible, for the time being.

Johana Bhuiyan is a tech reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Bhuiyan reports on the sharing economy with a focus on ridesharing companies.

Contact Johana Bhuiyan at johana.bhuiyan@buzzfeed.com.

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