f we’ve learned one thing over the past year, we can probably all agree, it’s the value of delivery. Stuck at home and hungry, we placed 500 percent more Instacart orders than we had before the plague, and we paid DoorDash, Uber Eats, Grubhub, and Postmates $5.5 billion in combined revenue to bring us doughnuts, dumplings, and other delights from April through September of last year. Let’s not even talk about the money we’ve given Amazon.
We learned we could get just about anything we wanted, from lightning cords to liquor, left at our doorsteps by masked angels otherwise known as essential workers. All we had to do was hop online and order through one of the many handy apps available to us. We could even get weed. Oh, wait. We could get weed delivered, but only if we lived in a certain dozen of the 50 United States—namely Arizona, Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont—and even then, maybe not.
Among the handful of states where cannabis delivery is allowed, regulation varies wildly, even from city to city and county to county. I spent half of last year in California, where all I had to do was hop on an app to get cannabis delivered, and the other half in Colorado, where delivery is legal but nonexistent—and I felt the loss hard. Once you’ve enjoyed the convenience of delivery, it sucks to be without it. That’s another reason why cannabis delivery is the new industry darling, expected to provide the industry’s fastest-growing revenue stream by 2024, according to a report by ArcView Market Research and BDS Analytics.
It’s ridiculous and weird that Colorado, the pioneer in legal adult use, is so far behind in addressing delivery-even after COVID-19 made cannabis use an increasingly crucial issue. At this point, though, the problem isn’t really the state. Colorado lawmakers approved medical cannabis deliveries to begin in 2019 and recreational deliveries in 2021 but left it up to local governments whether to allow delivery or not. So far, only a small number of cities are saying yes. Medical deliveries are permitted in Boulder, Superior, and Longmont. Aurora (population 400,000) is the first Colorado city to allow recreational delivery.
Colorado might be late to the game, but it will always be a player. Earlier this year, Aurora’s brand-new, wide-open delivery market caught the attention of Lantern, a Boston-based cannabis delivery platform that connects cannabis users to licensed dispensaries in Massachusetts and Michigan. Lantern was developed and funded by Drizly, the largest online marketplace for alcohol in the United States, which saw online alcohol orders spike by 485 percent during the pandemic. Denver is Drizly’s third-largest market, and the data told them (though all they had to do was ask me) that Denver consumers want delivery.
“Residents of Aurora, whose city council passed a vote in favor of recreational delivery in December 2020, will likely be the first in the state to access Lantern’s services once the city finalizes the permitting process,” says Meredith Mahoney, Lantern’s president. “Once Aurora’s local law goes into effect, customers over the age of 21 in Aurora will be able to conveniently place recreational cannabis orders online at lanternnow.com and have products delivered to their doorstep within an hour.”
Dispensaries pay Lantern a percentage of sales through the app, which offers users increasingly personalized product suggestions, whether they’re in the mood for gummies, vapes, or topicals. Users, who aren’t charged extra fees for using the app to streamline their searches, are directed to dispensaries that have what they need and trained dispensary personnel deliver their orders within an hour.
Business has been brisk, Mahoney says, as (in most states, anyway) the pandemic has accelerated the cannabis industry’s shift to e-commerce and delivery. “We believe that the demand for cannabis delivery will continue to grow and flourish post COVID-19, as an increasing number of customers integrate cannabis into their daily routines.” In Michigan, where Lantern is available to customers in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, and Battle Creek, delivery orders increased 89 percent three days before Christmas, she adds.
In February, Uber announced its acquisition of Lantern’s sister company, Drizly, but Mahoney says that will not affect Lantern’s operations or mission. Lantern, which had been an independent subsidiary of the Drizly Group, will now operate as a fully autonomous private company.
“Lantern’s consumer-centric ethos was born out of Drizly’s founding vision to create a more streamlined e-commerce experience, and Lantern will continue to build its best-in-class logistics technology platform, which has already transformed the emerging cannabis retail industry,” Mahoney says. “The company was first-to-market in Massachusetts and Michigan and is optimally positioned to continue expanding into new legal markets. The next few years will be consequential not only for the cannabis industry but also for the entire digital retail sector. Lantern is eager to set new standards for what is possible in both spaces.”