Is drive-thru cannabis the way of the future?

Published Jan 9, 2021 01:00 p.m. ET
iStock / gabe9000c

If this past year has shown us one thing, it’s that anything is possible. We’ve watched several countries bring their economies to a screeching halt, dispensaries go from taboo to essential service, and the evolution of what the cannabis industry has to offer ending with record sales, albeit still far lower than we’d initially hoped thanks to the diligence of the black market. 2020 taught us that we’re resilient and adaptable, two things that we’ll all need moving forward if we want to beat COVID-19 in its tracks.

We’ve also witnessed temporary exemptions that have allowed certain dispensaries to offer luxury services such as delivery or curbside pickup, things that are normally prohibited due to a lack of oversight. As a result, we now know that both the consumers and the public can handle a whole lot more, but that’s not all. They are demanding more and putting their money behind any company that can offer it, legitimate or not, which reveals deeper cracks in our current system that need to be addressed.

What we have now is no longer sufficient

You can order almost any type of food, booze, groceries, cleaning chemicals, and even pets to be delivered right to your door, thanks to advancements from delivery services. It takes no more than a quick text or a few clicks, and in no time, whatever you need is arriving, and fast. Convenience is a necessary feature in the fast-paced society of today, and customers no longer want to waste their precious time or energy seeking out the things we once had to shop for in person.

The black market, despite the government and regulator's greatest efforts, is still alive and well, and it’s isn’t just surviving, it’s thriving! Some reports peg estimates for black market sales at around 80%, which means that only 20% of cannabis sales are being made through legal dispensaries. This is in part due to the lack of variety offered in legal dispensaries, but it’s a reality that’s unnecessarily driven by a lack of convenience. Why shop in-store, when with a simple text, you can have a marijuana plant or all of the weed you’ll ever need from the black market delivered to your door?

Aside from the matter of convenience, which is an undeniable benefit that the black market boasts over legal dispensaries, COVID-19 has made contactless pickup and reducing the number of consumers who are in-store necessary for all businesses. This is something that is difficult and expensive to do, plus it’s a significant burden on customers who suddenly have to wait in lineups outdoors. Particularly at a time when the cold weather makes time spend standing still almost unbearable.

The benefits of drive-thru dispensaries

The majority of the benefits of a drive-thru dispensary come down to convenience, but some are also a matter of safety, which should never be ignored.

  • Reduces the number of customers indoors.

  • It makes it easy to get cannabis without getting in and out of a vehicle, which is ideal for disabled individuals.

  • Faster service

  • Less theft

  • The perfect situation for additional products or services

What you could buy there

So far, we’ve only spoken of a dispensary drive-thru as an alternative method of delivery for retail stores that are already functioning, but what if we were to completely reimagine what this type of service could do for us? What if you could get your regular bag of green, a vial of THC oil, and a snack to-go for the road? Or even better, what if we had the opportunity to experience an entirely cannabis-infused menu for take-out that might include things like ice cream, burgers, or poutine? The possibilities are endless, and that’s got some entrepreneurs excited.

Is it possible?

Sadly, with the way that the laws sit right now in Canada, this is not a viable business that could legitimately get licensed. However, as time passes, things have been changing most often for the better, so it could be anytime now that we see regulations adjust to accommodate such a new and exciting opportunity and experience for cannabis consumers. It might not be today or tomorrow, but someday, it’s very likely to become an integral part of the green industry.

Has this been discussed?

Some areas have considered the possibility of CBD being put into things like fast food items, but so far, no one is really talking about THC at all. Though we’ve seen a rise in stoner named burger and pizza joints aimed to suit the needs of a cannabis consumer, there have been no legitimate discussions where drive-thru cannabis has been the focus. Of course, we have seen something that many would consider being similar with curbside pickup under emergency orders, but that’s about it.

Why it’s the next logical step after delivery for dispensaries

Dispensaries right across the country are fighting for the privilege of serving consumers through alternative means such as curbside pickup and delivery, and most feel that they will win this battle because that’s what the consumers truly want, but is a cannabis drive-thru the next step forward for the market here and now, or are there other more logical first steps that will be taken first? Sure, we’ve seen a little bit of CBD more freely available, but we’re craving so much more.

Most advocates and users hope that the next step is an expansion on the list of allowable cannabis businesses to include things like restaurants, cafes, lounges, and other cannabis-specific venues where people can go to enjoy their green. We also expect that soon after COVID-19 is dealt with and events return to normal, the demand for pot products will grow to the extent that venues that host things like concerts and other live performances will have no choice but to fight to give the people what they want.

Is it too soon to implement such significant changes?

It might be a little bit too soon for a drive-thru cannabis joint. After all, we are pretty keen on maintaining regulations so that these sorts of transactions can stay safe while keeping substances out of the hands of youths. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t think and dream big when it comes to the future of the cannabis industry. It’s these thoughts, these ideas that bring change forward and truly make a difference in what’s to come.

2021 is primed to be the year of cannabis but it wont all be easy

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