Dave and Tina Comeau started working in the cannabis industry more than 10 years ago as medical growers and processors before launching Better Buds retail stores in 2016.
A year later, the innovative couple began work on a new project: developing sophisticated software for a legal and safe cannabis home delivery system where a third party picks up the item and takes it to the buyer. Think UberEats for cannabis.
Once developed, the couple applied for a patent in 2018, and in 2019 they received a patent in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom. Eight months later Pelican Delivers was launched.
Right now, Pelican Delivers operates in the Bremerton, Port Hadlock and Silverdale areas in Western Washington.
Here’s how it works: a customer/consumer places a reservation through pelicandelivers.com. Then they type in their address to see what cannabis retailer is closest. Pelican Delivers is available within a 25-mile radius of each location.
The customer chooses from a menu of products and completes the checkout process. No credit or debit cards are involved; payment is tendered with an electronic funds transfer (EFT) or an automated clearing house (ACH) transaction.
The funds are placed into an escrow account until the driver arrives as the store, at which time the funds are released to the retailer. The drivers either have the app or use the website to sign up.
Upon ordering and at the time of the delivery, the customer validates their identity to prove they are 21 or older. Third party ID scanning is used to verify that the purchaser is of age when they sign up. Tipping drivers is allowed.
Things got complicated last year when the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board started visiting retail stores in the delivery area and informed owners that they couldn’t use the Pelican software.
As a result, the Comeaus spent the majority of 2020 in court.
“We’re saying it’s legal, and the LCB says it’s not,” Dave Comeau said. He said the state is citing rules that don’t relate to what they are doing.
Comeau believes the state has no valid argument, but the state differs.
According to Brian Smith, spokesperson for the LCB, there is no legal way around the law that clearly states that all sales must be at a licensed store. After receiving complaints about Pelican, all cannabis licensees were sent a message last year.
“While Pelican is outside of the licensed cannabis system, Mr. Comeau is on the license for two retail stores (Better Buds). Those stores, plus a third store that also engaged the service, received violations in April 2020 for participating,” he said.
The other retail store is Cronic Case, which opted in anyway. A bulletin sent on Feb. 26, 2020, from Matt McCallum, LCB’s advertising coordinator, said “this bulletin is a clarification and reminder to all marijuana licensees that delivery of cannabis from retail licensed locations to customers outside of the licensed premises is prohibited. Some companies claim to have found a way around the delivery prohibition, but to date there is no legal method for commercial delivery of cannabis from a retailer to consumer off premise.”
The LCB continues to maintain that there is no legal pathway for commercial delivery, delivery service or a delivery app to be used to facilitate home delivery from licensed retail locations to customers.
A court decision had not been made as of reporting; Comeau said if the decision doesn’t go his way, he’s ready for a jury trial.
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