Using a phone to order cannabis is nothing new. Stoners have been dialing up their dealers and using ridiculous code words to summon pot to their front doors for generations. Even using a smartphone to order legal weed isn’t that novel: The mobile web has allowed iPhone and Android users to browse and order through services like Eaze for years now.
Specialized cannabis delivery apps, however, have not been available through the App Store or the Android Marketplace… until now.
That’s because neither Apple nor Google would allow cannabis delivery apps on their platforms. The policy of the iOS App Store, for instance, was to ban any apps that “encourage the consumption of tobacco and vape products, illegal drugs, or excessive amounts of alcohol,” or any apps that sold “controlled substances (except for licensed pharmacies), marijuana, or tobacco.”
But Apple just changed that rule. On June 7, the Cupertino tech giant updated those terms, replacing the phrase “except for licensed pharmacies” with “except for licensed pharmacies and licensed or otherwise legal cannabis dispensaries.” The cannabis industry app race was officially on.
It took about a month for these apps to start hitting iPhones (the Android Marketplace does not yet allow cannabis delivery services). San Francisco-based Eaze announced July 8 it was launching a “Shoppable Cannabis Delivery App for Apple,” touting the move as a “a major milestone for the legal cannabis market.”
Lesser-known companies, including Beta, Caliva, and Pineapple Express, launched their own iPhone apps in the following weeks. Then, two weeks ago, the online delivery service Weedmaps updated its existing app with a new feature allowing people to order cannabis.
So, are these apps any good, or is this just herbaceous hype? SF Weekly downloaded and used each one in an attempt to determine whether they really do make buying cannabis easier, or whether they’ll simply make you even more paranoid about who has access to your smartphone’s camera, location data, and other personal information.
First off, the apps only work in a state that has legal recreational cannabis. Apple says its apps are “geo-restricted to the corresponding legal jurisdiction,” so in other words, they will not work if you’re traveling in, say, Idaho, where the potatoes are famous, but cannabis is not legal in any form.
Each app forces you through a lengthy process of sending text codes to verify that it’s you, uploading your drivers license and a photo to prove you’re 21, and some sort of minimum order threshold of around $50. These cannabis companies’ mobile websites always did the same thing.
Some apps really do offer a slicker, improved interface for buying cannabis. But if we’re being blunt, others are barely even functional, and seem to have been launched just to blast you with notification alerts and suck up your location data.
It is definitely easier to order cannabis from Eaze in its new app. But that’s only because Eaze’s mobile site is so poorly designed and sticks you in an aggravating mobius loop of frustration that will make you want to ditch your phone and just walk to the nearest dispensary.
The mobile site sends you an email confirmation to sign up, which has a button that opens a new browser window, and leaves you struggling with two separate browser windows that cannot communicate with each other. Moreover, the Eaze mobile site uses more primitive scanning technology that has a much harder time scanning the barcode on the back of your ID.
The app does not have these issues, and the confirmations are all handled within the app. Eaze’s app also has a pretty light footprint — only accessing your camera and Siri.
Weedmaps’ mobile website is really quite good, so much so that it’s new app updates do not really offer any functionalities that its mobile site can’t already perform.
And the app does some creepy things the mobile site won’t do. The app tracks location, and tries to sign you up for alerts and push notifications. You can deny the alerts, but really, downloading the Weedmaps app gives you no weed-buying features you don’t already have on their website.
San Jose-based Caliva is not a household name in San Francisco, but the company hopes to change that with $75 million in venture capital and a new delivery app. But because Caliva is an actual cannabis company, instead of a third-party delivery platform like Eaze or Weedmaps, it mostly features its own products, which means a more limited selection and higher prices.
Neither Caliva’s app nor mobile website worked particularly well on our test run. The mobile site kept getting hung up while we tried to scan our drivers licenses, each time defaulting to a customer support page. The app crashed twice when we tried to start an order, but did eventually work.
Caliva’s app accesses your location, your camera, and Siri. It does offer one big advantage, though, in that it allows electronic payments through your checking account, making it the only app in this list that doesn’t require you to pay your delivery driver in cash.
The name Beta is appropriate because the app and the website do not seem ready for prime time. Beta’s mobile website seems to only want to sign you up as a delivery driver, or as a participating dispensary. The mobile website has no immediately visible option to actually buy cannabis.
App store screenshots for the Beta app promise “Your favorite dispensaries delivered,” and “Track your order live on screen.” But the fine print on that very same page admits, “The Beta iOS App does not support in-app ordering of cannabis products.”
It’s difficult to even find delivery service Pineapple Express online, considering its name is already a movie, a strain name, and a meteorological term. The Pineapple Express app has a similar problem, as there already is a card game in the app store also called Pineapple Express.
Worse yet, this app showed cannabis for sale, but did not even have an order button allowing us to buy. One imagines they’re working on this, but in its current state, the Pineapple Express app seems designed to hoover up email and home addresses.