United States: Calif. Cities Lift Medical Marijuana Delivery Ban: Is L.A. Next?

Last Updated: May 11 2017
Article by Michael Rosenblum

Under the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, enacted Jan. 1, 2016, California authorized the delivery of medical marijuana by licensed dispensaries to qualified patients but allowed municipalities to ban such deliveries. After initially imposing such a ban, San Jose and other California cities have recently lifted the prohibition and other municipalities have considered doing the same.

The changing sentiment is based on a preference for regulated delivery provided by licensed dispensaries over the illegal variety that has emerged in jurisdictions where medical marijuana delivery is prohibited. With both the medical marijuana and delivery service industries booming, the legality of medical marijuana delivery services is of paramount importance to the future of the cannabis industry. In Los Angeles, medical marijuana delivery remains banned, but the recently passed Proposition M and general public sentiment has increased the likelihood that the City Council will reconsider the city's stance in the coming months.

Medical marijuana delivery in California

Medical marijuana was decriminalized in California in 1996 under the Compassionate Use Act (CUA). CUA provided a limited defense against criminal prosecution for the use of medical marijuana but did not provide regulatory oversight or guidance.

After two decades of uncertainty in the industry, the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA) established a statewide licensing system to regulate the cultivation, transportation and sale of medical marijuana. Upon signing the act into law, Gov. Jerry Brown called it a long-overdue framework that would "make sure patients have access to medical marijuana, while ensuring a robust tracking system."

The governor's declaration is rooted in Section 19340 of MCRSA. The provision authorizes the delivery of medical marijuana by licensed dispensaries, increasing access to patients who are physically unable to visit a dispensary and those who prefer the convenience and privacy of delivery services.

Simultaneously, it requires dispensary employees to carry proper licenses during deliveries and present such documentation upon law enforcement's request. This facilitates the government's ability to track delivery operations and creates transparency absent from illegal delivery services. Counties are authorized to tax each delivery and such revenues can be used to finance tracking efforts.

Yet Gov. Brown's statement does not apply to many patients in California. Section 19340 prohibits the delivery of medical marijuana in any municipality that has banned such activity. Additionally, deliveries are forbidden by any dispensary located in a municipality that has banned deliveries, even if the recipient's municipality has not done so.

In the months before and after the enactment of MCRSA, several municipalities across the state established ordinances banning the delivery of medical marijuana. These include some of the most populous cities and counties including San Jose, Los Angeles, Santa Ana, Orange, Tustin, Irvine, Gardena, Oceanview, and Newport Beach.

Medical marijuana delivery in San Jose

In December 2015, San Jose, the third-most-populous city in California, passed an ordinance prohibiting the delivery of medical marijuana, regardless of the origin of the medical marijuana, to any person or location within the city. The sole exception is for deliveries made to patients by their primary caregiver.

At the time, the San Jose City Manager's office supported the ban and said, "Delivery operations offer too many opportunities for diversion of product to minors and other significant risks to the public health and safety."

Upon passing the ordinance the San Jose City Council stated:

City Staff has spent a number of years and many hours of hard work dealing with Medical Marijuana and we are almost at the finish line...The constant refrain when dealing with the issues of Medical Marijuana in San Jose has been to get it done right, not fast. The consequences of getting it wrong are great. We do not want the re-emergence of a "Black Market" or "Underground Market" where there are no regulations, no tracking, and no age limit.

Yet less than a year later, San Jose City Council readdressed the issue, passing a new ordinance in October 2016 that lifted the ban.

In a statement in favor of removing the ban, San Jose Police Chief Garcia said, "Regulated delivery is a better option than the illegal delivery currently happening in San Jose." Garcia added that the new ordinance meets the needs of elderly and disabled patients and helps quash the illegal delivery services. At the time, more than 30 prominently advertised unlicensed delivery services had emerged in San Jose since the enactment of the initial ordinance banning the practice.

The City Council believed these benefits outweighed the potential risks Garcia noted, such as an increased likelihood of diversion to underage patients and crimes against drivers delivering medical marijuana.

The San Jose ordinance closely regulates the delivery of medical marijuana. Delivery vehicles must be inspected by San Jose Police Department and outfitted with GPS, cameras and a secure lockbox. Drivers must be employees of the licensed dispensary and undergo background checks.

Prior to beginning delivery operations, licensed dispensaries must go through an additional review process and receive a registration notice. San Jose issued its first registration notice in February 2017 and currently only two dispensaries, Elemental Wellness and The Guild San Jose, are registered to deliver medical marijuana in the city. Any other company delivering medical marijuana in San Jose faces fines of up to $50,000 per offense per day.

Nevertheless, various technology companies have entered the space as "delivery facilitators." These services, such as San-Francisco based Eaze, works with registered dispensaries to deliver medical marijuana to the patient's door, facilitating the transaction but never touching the medical marijuana products. Upon receiving an order from a patient, Eaze submits the request to Guild which performs the delivery.

Delivery of medical marijuana in Los Angeles

In Los Angeles, few marijuana regulations were established in the two decades following the 1996 enactment of CUA. As medical marijuana businesses claimed a right to open and operate under the vague state law, Los Angeles voters passed Proposition D in 2013. The proposition prohibited medical marijuana businesses in the city but granted to certain businesses a "limited immunity" from the enforcement of the prohibition. To receive this limited immunity, the medical marijuana business must have opened prior to Sept. 14, 2007 and satisfy other requirements and restrictions.

Proposition D does not provide immunity from enforcement for a medical marijuana business made up of a vehicle that is transporting, delivering or distributing medical marijuana, according to the city attorney's office.

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feur has relied on Proposition D to strongly oppose medical marijuana delivery services. In 2014, he shut down Nestdrop, which marketed itself as the country's first app-based, on-demand medical marijuana delivery service. With a business model similar to that of Eaze, Nestdrop argued that it is not subject to Proposition D regulations because it is a technology service company.

However, since delivery of medical marijuana is illegal in Los Angeles, the city attorney prevailed in his argument that Nestdrop's business model amounts to abetting illegal activity. An appellate court agreed that although the app itself may not necessarily be illegal, Nestdrop was facilitating violations of Proposition D.

A second Los Angeles medical marijuana delivery service was shut down in May 2016 when city prosecutors entered into a judicially enforced agreement with the popular medical marijuana delivery company Speed Weed to cease its operations in Los Angeles.

In 2017, Los Angeles voters approved Proposition M which allows the city to license marijuana businesses. Although the measure did not address the legality of delivery medical marijuana services, it gives the Los Angeles City Council broad authority to create a licensing scheme and operating rules for marijuana businesses.

As the City Council begins to establish a new framework to regulate medical marijuana issues, proponents are urging City Councilmembers to re-address the question of medical marijuana delivery. If the Los Angeles City Council agrees with San Jose that the benefits of regulated delivery services outweigh the illegal alternative, legal delivery of medical marijuana may soon become a reality in Los Angeles.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions