Monday, June 7, 2010

Delivery Weed: A Bumpy Road for The Canny Bus

By David Downs
Mon, Jun 7, 2010 at 9:25 AM

Hard core capitalism is assimilating the progressive cause of pot, and one of its more exotic offspring has become delivery dispensaries. Medical cannabis dispensaries on wheels in the Bay Area number in perhaps the dozens, and run the gamut from glorified Craigslist drug dealers to California Board of Equalization-registered, Prop 215-protected non-profit collective The Green Cross in San Francisco. Neophytes like The Canny Bus sprout weekly, and as this once-black market turns white, it's reputation is still spotty.

Richmond gunmen reportedly took $3,000-worth of marijuana and $1,000 in cash from a 33 year-old San Francisco State student — and purported mobile dispensary operator — when he delivered an order to a Richmond carport at midnight Thursday, May 27. Green Cross' owner and veteran activist Kevin Reed is not surprised.

On a gritty corner in an undisclosable San Francisco location, cameras bunch in the eaves of a gated walk-up and spy pedestrians. A six inch-wide bulbous lens inspects whomever ring's Green Cross' bell.

“People should be worried going to buy marijuana or having people over,” says Reed, whose three-year-old delivery-only collective was robbed once in its early days.

Inside Green Cross, it's a busy, pungent, weekday morning. Phones ring off the hook with product inquiries. Bottles of germicide squat on shelves above Green Cross employees who shake freezer bags of immaculate buds into massive salad bowls. They irradiate the product with hand-held UV wands (kills germs), and fill sandwich baggy-sized ounces, along with half-ounces, and quarters. The weighted strains are collated with orders for fresh-baked cookies, brownies, rice krispies treats, truffles, even THC olive oil.

The Green Cross Kevin Reed
  • David Downs
  • The Green Cross' Kevin Reed


Seventeen employees process up to forty deliveries a day for the collective's 2,500 to 3,000 members. Staff have Kaiser health benefits, on-site gym, and wii. Flanked by banks of flatscreen monitors feeding security-camera footage of the street, Reed says “it's the wild fucking west” outside Green Cross these days. Each member must fill out and fax or email in a Green Cross form with a doctor's reccomendation for cannabis. Green Cross calls the doctor who wrote it. His drivers carry credit/debit card readers and don't deal in cash. Green Cross is the safe edge of the spectrum, though.

Ever since the United States Attorney General Eric Holder indicated the DEA would not be raiding locally-tolerated medical marijuana dispensaries, “pop-up dispensaries” have blown up, the ten-year veteran says. “You see them, new people advertising in the Guardian and SF Weekly every week.”

One newbie goes by the name of The Canny Bus, serving the whole Bay Area with all of two people and a shiny website. Rolling since April 20, The Canny Bus' owner Mario prefers LN not print his last name. He doesn't want his Mom to find out, the young retiree says. He sold his car to fund the start-up and meet demand in his neck of the East Bay.

“In my personal experience, I noticed where I lived out in the East Bay there were no collectives or delivery services, although I've come to find out there are quite a few. They're just hidden.”

The Canny Bus' provocative website has generated a deluge of inquiries, and has sketched out Mario.

canny_bus_logo.jpg


“I was quite nervous at first. There was one delivery where I went up to the door and I didn't feel good about it all,” he says. “But we haven't had any bad experiences as of yet.”

Mario observes Green Cross' membership policy, so it takes a lot of time to add members, he says. Deliveries to across the entire Bay Area also eat up gas and time, he says.

At roughly one delivery per hour, Green Cross is doing up to one-fifth of the volume of a normal dispensary, Reed says. He frets like any other California business about new state and local taxes, because he already pays 8 percent state sales tax, withholds federal and state payroll taxes, paid $10,000 for a city license, $5,000 annually to renew it, plus monthly payments for worker's comp, vehicle and $2 million-worth of liability insurance. Fully legalizing the plant doesn't bode well for his business model either, he says. “A year from now, I want to exist,” Reed says.

Whether or not Green Cross does exist, a raft of new entrepreneurs have started their engines.

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