Online pot delivery services offer Chicagoans easy access to weed — but flout the law
A sleek website offering everything from dried cannabis flower to THC-infused gummies and pre-rolled joints boasts that Chicago weed users can “avoid troubles” by using its online ordering platform.
A sleek website offering everything from dried cannabis flower to THC-infused gummies and pre-rolled joints boasts that you can “avoid troubles” by using its online ordering platform — and then have pot products delivered directly your door.
The site, Potlala, asserts that “marijuana delivery ... is one of the easiest and most convenient ways to get high quality cannabis for a reasonable price. Potlala offers you more than just weed; this online service allows you to select the best organic products with cannabis and to get them delivered to your home or office.”
It even attempts to capitalize on confusion that might surround legalization of recreational pot, which went into effect Jan. 1, claiming that the City Council recently “allowed Chicago residents to get marijuana deliveries.”
But that’s not true. Weed deliveries aren’t allowed under the current law, although lawmakers say they are considering it.
And while Potlala’s website looks like those run by licensed dispensaries, with prices to match, it’s not licensed to sell — and none of its products appear to come from the 21 official cultivators in Illinois. The service also claims to take major credit cards, which aren’t accepted at Illinois pot shops because marijuana remains illegal on the federal level.
So for now, the company — among a handful of delivery services offering weed for sale online — appears to be operating illegally.
“The industry is going to blur the line between legal and illegal,” said Andy Seeger, an analyst at the Brightfield Group, a Loop-based firm that researches the cannabis industry. “We’re going to see people trying to get away with what they can.”
Sophisticated weed delivery services aren’t new to Illinois or other states.
Even other legal states like Colorado and California, which have started regulating pot deliveries, continue to see black-market companies continue eating up a large portion of those markets, Seeger said. There are so many unlicensed services that on Monday, California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control submitted a proposed emergency rule that would require stores and delivery drivers to allow customers to use their cellphones to scan codes confirming sellers have been licensed by the state.
Could state step in here?
Illinois lawmakers were discussing the potential for licensing pot delivery services as recently as the fall veto session, according to State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a Chicago Democrat who led the legalization push.
Though no action has been taken, Cassidy is confident the state “will have delivery at some point in the future,” although she couldn’t say when a bill might be introduced.
“Somebody may be contemplating a delivery bill,” she said in an interview. “I know there are a lot of folks who are interested in it.”
Cassidy said she isn’t surprised that underground delivery services are using the internet to make sales.
If the state legalizes delivery services, some who are currently working in the illegal trade said they might eventually seek to get licensed.
One driver for a well-established weed delivery service in Chicago told the Sun-Times he has been a mobile marijuana merchant for more than two years, selling a range of cannabis products to customers who summon him by texting an automated number set up by his service.
“Anything a dispensary would sell, I also sell myself,” said the driver, who asked not to be named.
During a six-hour shift, he said he can make anywhere between 10 and 25 deliveries. He’s assigned to a different neighborhood each day, though areas like Wicker Park, Logan Square and the Loop tend to be the busiest.
In addition to working for the delivery service, he supplies his own separate clientele with a variety of weed products, including his own line of edibles. Recently, he even started selling the THC-laden treats to another delivery service that recently launched.
While the roving weed man ultimately hopes to go legit, he’s not rushing anything.
“I’m going to try to make as much cash as I can in the black market first,” said the dealer.