Marijuana in E-Commerce: A Look at the Growing Market

By June 3, 2019Articles
Marijuana in E-Commerce

While different states and more countries scurry to legalize the long contested cannabis, others aren’t waiting- and taking their business online.

Ten states and counting, within the continental United States have fully legalized recreational marijuana. These areas join six other countries around the world that have legalized recreational marijuana, alongside a few handfuls of countries where it has been fully decriminalized, or laws are just not enforced. It seems that the world is quite quickly embracing the recreational pot lifestyle, but nowhere is this as evident as it is online.

Cannabis e-commerce has blasted through the awkward and unprofessional website setups in the last few years. If you’re living in a legalized state or country, you have almost full, unfettered access to different products from around the world. Marijuana seeds that boast exotic strains and novel growth options, clothing made entirely from hemp and other marijuana derived products, you can even buy marijuana online and have it delivered directly to your door.

Most of these products have been available for purchase for years- if you’re the type of consumer that’s savvy enough to navigate the portentous “dark web”, or don’t mind web pages that look like they were pieced together by a deadhead living in a van. Thankfully, the days of stoner culture seem to be fading as many vendors and retailers embrace a more professional and hip interface.

Marijuana for Sale Online

Marijuana in E-Commerce

With most marijuana stores in the US and Canada looking more like chic coffee shops or bespoke microbreweries- few other countries have embraced the “dispensary” look. At least at their store front. Shops in places like The Netherlands and Spain don’t have a local, friendly bud tender, or an app – unlike their Canadian counterparts. These places resemble coffee shops or prohibition era speakeasies.

Until you look online that is. The Netherlands has seemed to embrace the marijuana e-commerce  culture when it comes to selling seeds and accessories, while Spain seems to still be stuck in the dark ages of online ordering formats and over priced goods. Uruguay, one of the first countries to legalized recreational marijuana at a federal level doesn’t seem to be on the internet at all. So while North America seems to have embraced e-commerce with mostly open arms, the worldwide and collaborative market seems to be sorely lagging behind consumer expectation. So while some may furtively hope for a worldwide e-commerce “Cannazon”, it’s far from happening.

Stopping at the Store Front

Marijuana in E-Commerce

Specifically in the United States, criminalization of Marijuana at a federal level stops many retailers from dealing online or throughout the world. While it is still possible, the difficult and highly confusing legislation makes it near impossible to ship, let alone purchase with a credit card of via a FDIC bank. While there is a niche market for dispensaries to “reserve” product purchased online, and then hold it for pickup or personal delivery, the availability of these services isn’t very far reaching. Using any postal or mail delivery service to ship marijuana is strictly illegal within the United States- even if it’s within the borders of a legal state.

Canada is a completely different story. Because of legalization at a federal level, marijuana e-commerce has exploded since legalization. Large, publicly traded companies as well as smaller retailers have a rich online presence offering its patrons consumables (buds, edibles, shatters and resins), cannabis swag (like clothing and apparel), as well as devices designed for use (vaporizers, bongs, pipes). Websites and apps fill the online stratosphere with consumer demanded products and services. However, it’s unlikely that any other legal country will see this sort of freedom anytime soon.

No Dispensary, No Cry

In places like Spain and Uruguay, while cannabis may be legal- you won’t see a well-lit dispensary with a weed menu that rivals most fancy restaurants wine selection. In Spain, they have “Marijuana Clubs” that work more like the underground speakeasies, popularized during US prohibition years. You must obtain a membership to the club and then can then intern supply you with your own stash of marijuana. Sounds confusing? Well, it is. Kind of. In Spain it’s still illegal to cultivate or sell marijuana, but it’s been decriminalized for personal use and growth. Cannabis clubs get around this by storing cannabis that legally belongs to it’s verified adult patrons. They also must be fully licensed and considered an NPO.

Most of the “coffeeshops” in The Netherlands sit somewhere in between Spain’s Cannabis Clubs and the US dispensaries. Where patrons can openly purchase weed for personal use, laws and guidelines vary on whether or not you must be a local to purchase. Personal use and possession of up to 5 grams of marijuana is legal in The Netherlands, but the police are still fully within their rights to confiscate any marijuana that is found in an individual’s possession. While The Netherlands has some pretty vague and inconsistent policy on the sale and purchase of marijuana itself, they have still positioned themselves as one of the top online retailers of exotic and high quality marijuana seed distributors.

In Uruguay, you can only buy pot from pharmacies, owing that you are 18 or older, Uruguayan, and have fully registered with the government. You’re also restricted to 40 grams per month and can only purchase strains with relatively low THC content. So it’s easy to see why marijuana e-commerce hasn’t exactly hit the world wide trade stage just yet. Which is a disappointing fact to most marijuana retailers as e-commerce is one of the best ways to build a brand and customer base, not to mention gather stock that is otherwise difficult to come by in your area. Until federal and international laws stop hindering sales and distribution, you’ll probably still need a “dealer”- even in countries that are weed friendly.

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