These college students are building an Uber for marijuana delivery

canary2There’s an Uber for storage. There’s an Uber for moving couches.

Now two young entrepreneurs are building an Uber for marijuana delivery.

University of Washington students Megh Vakharia and Josiah Tullis are the co-founders behind Canary, a service that moves marijuana from the dispensary to your door.

Vakharia and Tullis, who will be pitching at tonight’s TechCrunch Meetup in Seattle, haven’t quite launched their new startup yet. They are taking time to ensure that Canary operates legally in what is still a nascent industry.

To avoid any legal issues and to operate within the confines of the law, the company is purely a middleman. As a marketplace app, it acts as an intermediary between dispensaries and customers.

Here’s how it works. Those ordering marijuana can deposit money into a Canary account at any of the company’s partnered dispensaries. From there, they can browse through the Canary app, pick their favorite strains — detailed information from Leafly helps describe different effects — and set a pickup location.

Canary then sends a courier to pick up the marijuana and bring it to the customer, who is verified through the Canary app. The company charges an extra 10 to 25 percent off the base price for delivery, and gives a cut to the courier.

Megh Vakharia and Josiah Tullis, co-founders of Canary, pose with Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. Photo via Canary.

Megh Vakharia and Josiah Tullis, co-founders of Canary, pose with Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. Photo via Patrick Ellis.

“Because the exchange of money (the point of sale) happens at the brick-and-mortar dispensary, Canary complies with the current I-502 rules and regulations,” explained Tullis, a sophomore studying design.

Canary plans to launch its service at the end of July for medical marijuana dispensary partners, but there is potential for even more business. That’s because Washington is set to open recreational marijuana retail stores in July, and anyone above 21 years of age will be able to purchase pot.

There is competition in this space. Delivery services like Nurse Nancy and Winterlife Co-op already offer convenient ways for people to have marijuana delivered.

But it seems there is room for more, particularly as recreational pot becomes legal in Washington and Colorado. Tullis said that the company has begun hiring couriers and received “an overwhelming amount of interest there.” Medical patients that the co-founders interviewed are also eager for a service like Canary.

Much like how Uber has built efficient software to win over users, Canary hopes to do the same for marijuana delivery. The company also plans to make revenue off the data it crunches from app users, as well as in-app promotional spots sold to dispensaries (and potentially recreational shops).

For now, Tullis and Vakharia — who met through the UW’s Lavin Entrepreneurship Program — are focusing on the medical marijuana market since the laws around delivering recreational pot are less clear. Eventually they’d like to expand this service to Colorado, where recreational marijuana shops have been legal since January.

Learn more about Canary here.

  • Slaggggg

    Dude

  • michaelschneider

    I may not fully understand this market, but are they saying that customers would have to a dispensary to give them the money, and then they would leave the dispensary without their drugs and then wait to have the drugs delivered later?

    Also, if marijuana becomes easily available at retail stores, would people pay extra to have it delivered to them? I understand that it would be more convenient, but that argument would also apply to sales of alcohol, and there hasn’t been an apparent for alcohol delivery services. Is there something inherently different between marijuana and alcohol.

    The data collection thing sounds kind of creepy too. I can’t imagine pot smokers want data about their drug use sold for marketing purposes. Would they?

    • Josiah

      Hi Michael,

      I’m the co-founder mentioned above. You raise some great concerns and I thought I’d address them. The way that Canary will operate in some states might require that users deposit money into their Canary account on-site at a partnered retailer. The money will then show up in your Canary wallet (in-app) for use at your leisure. For instance, a user might deposit $200 at a partnered dispensary. They are then free to spend that $200 in the app over the course of several months with purchases to any of the available retailers in the app, not just the one they made their deposit at. It’s almost like an depositing money at an ATM or something similar. While this isn’t ideal for users, in some states regulation requires that money only be exchanged on-site at a marijuana retailer.

      I wholeheartedly agree with you on the issue of data privacy, and we’re absolutely committed to keeping users data private. What we were envisioning for a revenue stream, however, was simply using data to come up with suggested strains, or “popular in this area” strains. Let me know if you have any questions, and we’re always available at hello@trycanary.co and on twitter @trycanary.

      • michaelschneider

        Hi Josiah,

        Thanks for the response. Sounds like you guys gave a great presentation. I am guessing that you will be able to adapt your business as you roll things out. Staying within the bounds of Washington law is certainly worth whatever additional steps you need to put your customers through, but having to go to a retail store to pay for something that will eventually be delivered seems like it could be a challenge. The new market opening up presents a really unique opportunity. I am sure you guys will figure out a way to adapt if your customers are resisting the retail thing.

  • sol

    that means we need uber laws and regulations for the uber illegal businesses. Good luck enforcing them right?!

    • Josiah

      “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.”

      • Evolved Ventures

        Grassp is the first Uber for Marijuana and so much more. Visit http://www.grasspit.com and follow their lead.

      • therightguy

        you looking for investors ?

  • mberticus

    If they can’t get off the couch to get their bud then certainly they will need somebody to deliver munchies. Is that part of the service?

  • KyleKesterson

    I was there to see the pitch. Whether or not this particular idea pans out, these kids were fun to listen to, and they answered questions thoughtfully. While most 19yr olds are just getting high, these 19yr olds are trying to understand and disrupt an industry.

    As it was being pitched, I couldn’t help but keep thinking of Mr. Nice Guy http://ih3.redbubble.net/image.12309142.9020/flat,550×550,075,f.jpg

  • http://adamgering.com/ Adam Gering

    Where’s the post-TechCrunch Pitch event wrap-up? Did GeekWire not cover the event just because it was run by their competition? I’d like to read about each of the companies and their pitch, given I was unable to attend. I don’t see a wrap-up on TC’s website either.

    Hopefully it was better than the last Seattle TC event (at the ShowBox, where you couldn’t hear any of the pitches over the crowd noise).

    Don’t tell me media are going to stop covering pitch events given the implications of Rule 506(c)?

  • Burrito Grande

    Back in my day, i’d don a hoodie, head out in the rain, and look for one of my deranged dealers. Kids these days.

  • Bing

    It will be interesting to see how weed businesses surmount two key hurdles:

    1. Banking. As long as weed is illegal under federal law, these businesses will struggle with bank accounts, where to put their money, how to pay bills, etc. While the DOJ and regulators have made some half hearted efforts to facilitate this, it is tough to see banks believing them. Regulators change their mind and banks get pummeled and possibly their management even goes to jail, because it is still transferring money for an illegal activity.

    2. Talent. There are only a handful of people with experience working in these spaces–the Privateer team leaps to mind. For the most part, people above college age with real jobs or real futures really have a hard time looking to join this sort of business. Just look at the job descriptions posted by businesses in this industry. Typically cryptic, non-descriptive names with no description of the company. It will be interesting to see how you get the people needed to scale these businesses. U

    ltimately, these businesses will combine the need for real retail scaling skills with highly regulated, tightly controlled drug requirements–like Walgreens pharmacies on steroids or a new, major drug company.

    • Guest

      1. Salal Credit Union
      2. College

  • SiliconBeach420

    These guys better hustle… There is already a fully developed and live Uber for Marijuana in California @grasspit Visit http://www.grasspit.com for more information.