Weed Wars

Dispatches from the California Marijuana Front

April 23, 2010
On-line medical weed service pushes the delivery envelope

c420boss.JPGMatthew Lawrence says he has created California's first virtual dispensary -- one that will deliver actual marijuana to medical users across the Golden State.

"We are the first totally on-line dispensary," says Lawrence, a real estate developer and property manager who also used to grow weed for a Bay Area medical pot cooperative.

By promising to ship up to 8 ounces of marijuana overnight, Lawrence's C420online.com is testing the boundaries of pot distribution, even for California's manic medical marijuana market.

The on-line patients' collective had its public launch at last weekend's International Hemp & Cannabis Expo with a splashy booth, flashing video screens, lush plants and bowls filled with exotic marijuana buds.

C420 says it has signed up 1,000 medical marijuana users with physician's recommendations and a yearning for convenient home deliveries. It promises to ship pot only within California and only after verifying that a doctor has recommended weed for any recipients, who must be state residents.

The collective's operating model has one glaring difference from another on-line California pot site. Billed as "The Compassionate Care Marketplace," PlainView Systems offers an web meeting place that hooks up pot cultivators, dispensaries and other marijuana businesses. But it never handles, or ships, any product.

However, Lawrence's C420, which claims to operate as non-profit patients collective, has a staff of pot growers and bud tenders. Lawrence promises to ship overnight with a supervised, "traceable chain of custody," for marijuana, weed edibles and carefully packed seedlings for growing pot at home.

C420 has even set up a shipping system, promising "a 100 percent refund policy" for any dissatisfied customers -- as long as they haven't smoked or consumed more 1/3 of a gram of the product.

c420grower.JPGThere are a few notable challenges for the operation. It can't use the U.S. Postal Service because of the small matter of federal laws against possessing, distributing or transporting marijuana. C420 also can't use companies such as Federal Express, which may divert in-state deliveries to an out-of-state sorting facility.

So Lawrence says he is contracting with a network of overnight couriers familiar with handling and shipping pharmaceutical products in California. He declines to identify who he is working with.

But he contends the shipments will be supervised, meticulously tracked and that the network is lawful, and safe.

"We talked to three different lawyers," says Lawrence, who said the operation closely follows state guidelines for medical marijuana collectives. "This is something with a lot of gray areas. But they said it's pretty dark gray area and we should be good."

Pictured: Top - Matthew Lawrence, director of C420online.com, cradles a bowl of fresh buds as he pitches his on-line pot delivery network at the Hemp & Cannabis Expo in Daly City. Below - Justin Browning, 24, C420's plant 'cloner,' shelves seedlings that the patients network will pack and ship for medical users to grow at home. Peter Hecht/phecht@sacbee.com

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