In January, a year after Californians voted to legalize recreational marijuana, the state issued a number of temporary regulations. They’re supposed to lay the groundwork for a digital track-and-trace system, but that won’t be outlined in full until the final regulations come out in the next month or so. An important part of that system is going to be licensing every vehicle used to ship weed across the state.
While this may excite some, others in the cannabis transportation industry are anxious. California’s pre-existing laws may require many commercial vehicles operating within the state to register with the federal Department of Transportation—by telling them exactly how their vehicles are going to be used.
Plants, buds, oils, dabs, cookies, and other marijuana products all get a serial number. Anyone transporting these products have to scan an RFID tag upon pickup and delivery. They then have to deliver it in a vehicle equipped with GPS and stick to a predetermined route, with no unscheduled pit stops.
These regulations contain one glaring oversight that could force would-be cannabis couriers to snitch on themselves. Anyone hoping to commercially transport cannabis in California must apply for a Motor Carrier Permit. However, in 2016, the state’s Department of Transportation began requiring any commercial vehicle seeking a Motor Carrier permit to obtain a federal DOT number.
That involves explaining to the feds exactly how the vehicle is going to be used, and under federal law, marijuana is still illegal. Not only that, but the state’s regulations place limits on only transporting a company’s own goods, limiting that company’s potential to grow.
There are workarounds, but these regulations can put many cannabis shippers in a sticky situation.