Lantern, which was already operating on the East Coast, is now up and running in Aurora, with plans to launch in Denver, too, if the Mile High City opts into delivery when it comes to a vote of Denver City Council.
Only one dispensary, Colorado Harvest Company, is currently permitted to deliver in Aurora, but Lantern claims that any customer within the city who uses its service will receive a delivery within the hour. And there will be more retail options available soon, with a partnership already arranged between Lantern and the Green Solution, one of the state's largest dispensary chains, with five Aurora stores and several more in the works in the metro area, according to Lantern president Meredith Mahoney.
An online sales and logistic service, Lantern provides Colorado dispensaries with the platform to reach customers, while dispensaries or third-party transporters perform the actual delivery service. To make an order, a customer enters a residential address, and if it is within a jurisdiction allowing marijuana delivery, the process from there is similar to ordering food, alcohol or retail goods online. Currently owned by the same holding company as the Drizly alcohol delivery service — though the two businesses won't be attached in a few weeks, since Drizly has been acquired by Uber — Lantern had early access to a significant database for the metro area.
"It's pretty complex because of the regulations that govern cannabis in general. Cannabis is tracked from seed to the point of delivery in Colorado, and there's a lot of really specific local regulations you have to adhere to," Mahoney explains. "We have to make sure we're very careful with our tech. Some zip codes span Denver and Aurora, and we need to make sure these occur at legal residential addresses in Aurora and are going to the right person."
In 2019, the Colorado Legislature passed a bill legalizing medical and recreational marijuana delivery, but allowed only for medical marijuana in 2020, with recreational coming online in 2021. Under that law, only dispensaries operating within towns and counties that opt into delivery can allow the practice, with deliveries limited to residential addresses for customers at least 21 or older. In Aurora, deliveries are now allowed between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., and subject to state purchasing limits of 1 ounce of flower, 8 grams of concentrate, or edibles containing 800 milligrams of THC.
Aurora is currently the only Colorado town that allows dispensaries and also recreational delivery, but Denver is expected to opt into the practice this spring, with several other communities along the Front Range also considering delivery. In addition to the Colorado Harvest Company and the Green Solution, Medicine Man, Lightshade and Rocky Road have all expressed interest in getting in on the Aurora delivery game, according to the Aurora Marijuana Enforcement Division. Mahoney says Denver dispensaries are waiting to jump in on the action, too.
"We're very closely in discussion with probably everyone you can think about. Delivery is a big thing to take on," she explains. "Delivery is an entrenched consumer behavior in every other product category, and consumers are used to not leaving their home. It's always been a part of the cannabis industry; it just hasn't been a part of the legal industry until today."
Delivery is currently free of charge under a special promoting Lantern's launch in Aurora; Mahoney says that dispensaries will be responsible for setting their own delivery fees going forward. (The Green Solution has already warned customers to expect higher prices for delivery compared to brick-and-mortar shopping.)
Mahoney says that Apple, Android and other major phone-app stores currently refuse to carry apps that conduct marijuana transactions, so customers will have to access Lantern through their web browsers. But she hopes to have an app up and running "in the future," she says.