On Tuesday, an event was held in the UK on the digital future of cannabis in England and abroad. The basic thrust of the proposal put forth by the event’s organizers and contributors was that the most sensible future for a regulated legal marijuana market was one that was entirely digital, where weed could only be bought through online purveyors.
The event, called Green Screen, was put up by Volteface, a self-described “policy innovation hub that explores alternatives to current public policies relating to drugs.” Mike Power, the award-winning science writer and author of the Green Screen report that came out in tandem with the event, told Volteface that, “Globally, cannabis prohibition is crumbling under the weight of popular opinion, scientific research, and simple good sense,” and that it was “time for a new solution.”
The solution proposed is meant to sound warm and fuzzy to both proponents and critics of marijuana advocates, promoting a regulated “digital-only cannabis market” that “would protect children, and limit their access to cannabis, but allows adults to make their own informed health choices.”
But this vision probably sounds dismaying to some. For instance, the folks who have built up legal cannabis markets in the US, Britain, and Canada, and don’t want to see those markets taken away from them and handed over to Silicon Valley.
Volteface writes that, “Just as streaming services such as Spotify have hugely diminished music piracy, an online only, legal cannabis market in the UK could disrupt the illicit black market.” But what isn’t addressed, weirdly, is that music piracy is not the only thing that was “diminished” by the ubiquity of Spotify.
The music industry was too. What has replaced the old model of record companies which supported both artists and legions of employees is a tech-based streaming service with comparatively much fewer employees and a substantial decrease in pay for musical artists.
The reason buyers in the market chose Spotify over the old methods of distribution was obviously that it was a much cheaper alternative. If tech companies with substantial capital create a service equivalent to Uber Eats, where “non-employees” deliver a mass-produced product to customers, then those companies could dismantle the current cannabis industry (one that was, unlike almost any other in America or Britain, built recently without the help of corporations) the same way Uber and Lyft have decimated the taxi business and Spotify has wounded the record industry.
The good news, of course, is that none of this has happened yet. Weed is still federally illegal in the US and in Britain. Canada will be breaking new ground next year when it goes full legal and the money and political power gained by corporations in that nation will likely have a bearing on the future of legal marijuana in other countries.
Eaze (a weed delivery app in California) and Tweed (another in Canada) are two companies at the forefront of the digital cannabis delivery world. In a piece on the subject Leafly quoted Eaze’s CEO Jim Patterson as saying, “I think what a lot of people are doing is waiting and seeing.” So, I guess that’s what we’ll be doing too.