Youthful Canary Has Grown Up Ideas, Aspirations

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You have to be at least 21, an adult, in order to purchase and consume retail marijuana in Washington State, but you don’t have to be 21 to be part of the marijuana business.

Three University of Washington undergrads, none old enough to make a purchase at a retail pot outlet, are the forces behind an app-based marijuana delivery system, Canary. The powers-that-be at Canary are Dalton Caughell (19), Megh Vakaharia (20) and Josiah Tullis (20). They met on the UW campus as members of a club that encourages student entrepreneurs, Startup UW (pronounced U-dub).

(Vakaharia, left, and Tullis are pictured above with Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.)

“We want to be the Uber of marijuana,” said Vakaharia.

The folks at Canary won’t grow marijuana. They will never handle any form of the product. They want to provide the software for the people who will bring you the goods of your choosing to your home — or very nearly anywhere else you want to meet.

The Canary app is currently in the beta testing phase. The company plans a full release the software sometime in January.

Marijuana delivery services in Seattle (and across the state) are limited to selling to authorized medical marijuana patients. The companies’ practices have come under heavy scrutiny of late because many are suspected of taking advantage of lax enforcement to make unauthorized sales.

Massive, untaxed unauthorized sales. There are suspicions that one firm may have grossed a minimum of $20,000 a day.

Last Wednesday, the city of Seattle announced its intentions to crack down on delivery services which do not comply with the law, albeit without specifying the start of potential enhanced enforcementThe city clearly wants delivery services to know that the potential for a crackdown is possible and likely.

While the fight to legalize marijuana is over in the state of Washington, there are still battles being waged — like details about how the vast array of medical pot businesses will operate now that retail outlets are open. Local governments are looking to the state legislature to help resolve that and other implementation details during the upcoming session in Olympia.

That’s why there is a layer of uncertainty hanging over the marijuana business scene in Washington like a fog bank. The only thing all stakeholders can agree on is changes are coming, but no one can say with any exactness what the future holds.

It is into that environment that Canary’s backers fly.

Tullis said Canary, initially, was eyeing the retail marijuana market, but is now focusing on perfecting their product while servicing the medical market in Washington, where there are an estimated 103,000 medical marijuana patients. That is the fourth highest total in the nation. Only California, Michigan and Colorado have more med marijuana patients.

The folks at Canary say they can make a go of it servicing medical marijuana patients while waiting for the day to come when deliveries to the recreational market are also allowed.

From the Canary website: “Canary is, always has, and always will strive to operate within the regulatory confines of the law, and we’re excited to be serving the Seattle patient community through our private beta. We want to re-iterate that we’ve taken a lot of time and have been treading carefully in finding a model that works with our current medical marijuana regulations. It’s our duty and priority to protect our customers, couriers, and dispensary partners.”

canaryThe app is easy to install. Set up requires a valid medical pot card. An email is sent once your card has been validated. When a client agrees to make a purchase, they are automatically enrolled in all seven dispensaries that are part of Canary’s network, which satisfies a state medical pot requirement. At this time, the app does not accept debit or credit cards. Couriers must pay the dispensaries up front. Some of the couriers may be able to accept plastic payments from patients.

While delivery services are under increased scrutiny, no one doubts that delivery will be a part of the industry’s future, and that includes Alexander Lopera, who is with a dispensary, HeavenBound420.com, that is part of Canary’s network.

He thinks delivery is the future of the industry.  Lopera, whose Twitter ID is @FatBabyJesus, said: “I think it is a great opportunity for everyone, including the patients because many of them aren’t able to go to the dispensaries. It’s a valuable service to them.”

Lopera said 200 of his patients are part of the Canary beta.

The same evening Seattle announced that a crackdown looms, Tullis and Vakaharia gave a presentation on their product at the monthly meeting of a group called Cannabis Tech Meetup, which hopes to create economic sparks by bringing together people from the worlds of technology, business and marijuana. Judging by the number of questions elicited by the presentation, Canary’s concept was extremely well-received at the meetup.

One of the event’s hosts demonstrated the system, by getting an order delivered to the event (Editor’s note: No marijuana was smoked at this event). The currier’s progress from a dispensary in north Seattle to the site of the gathering south of downtown was shown on a screen behind Tullis and Vakaharia as they spoke and answered questions.

Delivery prices tend to be higher than self-service purchases at a brick-and-mortar dispensary, but it is a lot easier to make  a phone or a few clicks to kick off an order.

Given the nation’s love of and reliance on products and services being delivered to people’s homes and workplace, pot delivery is not on the verge of extinction.

About Author

John Peoples is Marijuana.com's News Editor. He previously worked as a sports reporter for the Seattle Times, as a copy editor and reporter for MSNBC.com and as a content writer and web site producer for Microsoft Games.

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