January 1 is quickly approaching, and while many cannabis consumers are in full-blown celebration mode, others are understandably hesitant. Among the most hesitant are long-standing medical cannabis delivery operations and the patients they serve. In San Diego alone there are an estimated 200 to 300 delivery services. In California, slightly over 50 percent of all cannabis retail is conducted via delivery. This is a massive market that our local leaders have overlooked.
While most “Green Rush” entrepreneurs focus on profit margins and other numbers that only matter to financial investors, there are still advocates who do the real work of making sure that medical cannabis patients will not be left behind. Elizabeth Wilhelm is one of those people. As the President of the San Diego Cannabis Delivery Alliance (SDCDA), Wilhelm works tirelessly on behalf of delivery providers and the oft forgotten patients they serve.
Wilhelm, age 50, who struggles with her own disability issues, has taken it upon herself to be the voice of those who are forgotten. “The big issue for us is the ability for the disabled, people with mobility issues, people without transportation. All of the people who are in need, somehow need to be able to get their medicine,” Wilhelm told CULTURE. “It’s important to understand that what we’re asking for in terms of delivery, is medical delivery only. We are not asking for adult-use delivery. What we are focused on is people that need medicine. Everybody is going to smoke pot; everybody’s been smoking pot for thousands of years, and we’re fine with that. The thing is, there are people who cannot get to a dispensary. Especially when you look at how many safe access deserts we have.”
In an exclusive interview with CULTURE, Wilhelm explained the progress that the SDCDA has made and what the organization hopes to achieve in the future. “The last few months have been focused on meeting with city council, specifically with the members of the Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee. That’s where everything starts, is with those four members of council. We have met with three of the four. One of them is not even remotely open to change.” She continued to share that, luckily, Councilmembers Chris Ward, Chris Cate and Barbara Bry have all been very responsive. “Chris Ward actually said he would champion the issue,” Wilhelm shared. “When they realized what we were really asking for, that it was medical delivery, it really put a light bulb over their heads. I think what the city was afraid of was rampant adult-use delivery services running around everywhere.” At this time, the SDCDA is primarily focusing on getting delivery permitted for medical patients.
For a different perspective, and in order to understand this issue from a patient’s point of view, CULTURE spoke to Justin Turley, a longtime cannabis patient whose disabilities leave him mostly homebound. Adding to the difficultly of his illnesses which include cirrhosis, edema and a host of other ailments, which leave him frequently hospitalized. He is the undue burden of relying on disability income and having been recently forced to move to East County, where, without a car of his own, it is virtually impossible to obtain access to the medical cannabis he relies on to survive.
Turley told CULTURE, “To say I’m reliant on delivery services to safely obtain my medical cannabis is an understatement. While I used to enjoy visiting brick and mortar dispensaries around the city, now it’s less about trying new strains that may work for my medical needs and more about what I can get on a regular basis. The delivery services I utilize most frequently often introduce me to new strains that are ‘Top Shelf’ for a competitive donation amount. While licensed shops are important, they are useless to patients like myself who cannot get to them.” Turley is just one of thousands in San Diego County who are not rolling celebratory blunts in anticipation of January 1, 2018. Legalization is something to be appreciated, but those who spend most of their time in the hospital and worrying about making rent have little to celebrate if it means they won’t have a way to obtain cannabis. Delivery services offer a glimmer of hope. So, as you ring in the New Year, please take a moment to remember them, and more importantly, those they serve.