Cannabis couriers are likely to become a more common profession as legal marijuana laws expand and settle in. During this transitional period of ending prohibition, drivers just are not sure of what the outcomes will be when moving the legal cannabis, either by the police or those involved in illegal activity. Can you imagine what a cannabis courier business would be like if marijuana was legalized nationally and they could cross state lines?
The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board began issuing marijuana transportation licenses in October. A license allows companies to transport, under certain security requirements, marijuana between licensed businesses, but not to individual customers. There are two marijuana transporters currently licensed in Spokane County and nine statewide. Drivers must be older than 21 and deliveries must be made within 48 hours of receipt, regardless of where the weed is headed.
Jon Sahlberg’s mind was on his van full of weed when the Washington State Patrol pulled him over for a busted taillight near Ritzville.
“I was like, ‘Oh God, I don’t know how this is going to go,’ ” the former FedEx delivery man-turned-marijuana transporter said.
The back of his late-model Dodge van held several pounds of pot, its presence unavoidable thanks to the drug’s signature skunky scent. Sahlberg hoped the manifest from a state-licensed cannabis farm, and his credentials as one of the state’s first marijuana transporters, would absolve him.
Moving marijuana is the newest wrinkle in Washington’s billion-dollar pot industry. Only nine licenses to legally transport marijuana have been issued statewide; two of those are in Spokane, including the first transport licensee in the state, Go Green Enterprises, and Sahlberg’s firm, Cannavan. Those involved in the trade said the state imposes strict guidelines and there is still some uncertainty over how the service will work in an industry that recently celebrated its third anniversary of operation.
Sahlberg handed the trooper his paperwork and was sent on his way. Most of the rest of his time behind the wheel, which includes up to four trips weekly across the state on Interstate 90, has been dull, with podcasts as his soundtrack, Sahlberg said.
“Most of the deliveries are from Spokane to Seattle, and Seattle to Spokane, because no one wants to make that drive,” Sahlberg said.
His rigs are inconspicuous white vans, outfitted with a cage separating the cabin from the product in back. Sahlberg installed thermal insulation to keep temperatures from rising above 75 degrees, the silver panels giving his vans the appearance of a NASA lunar lander. High temperatures could melt edibles containing chocolate or waxes, he said.
The scent that tipped off the trooper? Doesn’t bother him, Sahlberg said.
“It smells, but you get used to the smell,” he said.
You’ll find locks but not a gun in Cannavan vehicles. Sahlberg said it causes too many complications. His insurance, which costs $10,000 for each van per year and was difficult to find, covers the loss of product, and video cameras are trained on the drug throughout the transport.
Kevin Lynch, an information technology specialist who started Go Green Enterprises in November, also doesn’t arm his five drivers making deliveries all over the state.
“Our understanding is if you carry while you’re transporting, it’s against the law and you can be arrested for it,” Lynch said.
Brian Smith, a spokesman for the Liquor and Cannabis Board, pointed to the Department of Justice’s guidance on prosecution of marijuana crimes, a 2013 memorandum prepared by then-Deputy Attorney General James Cole. The document, which guides much of Washington’s legal industry as President Donald Trump’s administration develops its own enforcement policies, indicates the department will prosecute to prevent “the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana.”
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