In another win for the mainstreaming and normalization of cannabis, Southern California just got its first drive-thru dispensary. The Harborside dispensary in Desert Hot Springs, California is just the second drive-thru retail shop in the entire state, and the first in SoCal.
There are so few drive-thru dispensaries in California because state law actually bans them. But Harborside was able to navigate through a tiny loophole in the law for businesses that submitted a drive-thru license application before June 2018. In fact, Harborside, which was among the first dispensaries in the U.S. to sell medical cannabis, has always been a trailblazer in California cannabis retail. Now, the company is bringing a whole new level of convenience to the cannabis buying experience.
What’s It Like to Buy Weed from a Drive-Thru?
Desert Hot Springs is nestled in the Coachella Valley, an extremely cannabis-friendly region in California and a hub of tons of commercial activity. Desert Hot Springs was one among several Coachella Valley cities that opened their doors to the legal industry after California passed Proposition 64. Today, cannabis consumers in that region have their choice of roughly 40 licensed dispensaries. But with the opening of its drive-thru service, the Harborside location offers something none of the rest have.
So what’s it like buying weed from a drive-thru dispensary? Just like completing a transaction at a bank or a pharmacy—or even a fast-food joint. Drivers simply pull up to one window where they place their order and pay, then pull up to a second window where they receive their products, receipt and any change.
But if that’s not fast enough, shoppers can even place an order with Harborside online and pick up their purchase at the drive-thru window. Harborside says it accepts both cash and debit cards for payment. Additionally, Harborside says it will only check the ID of the driver of the vehicle. Passengers will not have to provide ID to the budtender.
Shoppers who place their order at the drive-thru will have a smaller menu to choose from, however. That menu includes the shop’s most popular items, like pre-rolls, edibles and vape cartridges, but consumers with more esoteric tastes will want to shop inside the store or order online.
Harborside’s Biggest Concern is Slow Shoppers
California banned drive-thru dispensaries with its revised emergency regulations back in May 2018. The idea behind the ban was to prevent instances of drugged driving, which many assumed would be a concern with drive-thru cannabis retail. But California law already prohibits consumption on dispensary grounds and consumption while driving or driving under the influence of THC. So drive-thru’s really aren’t any different than driving and parking at a dispensary.
Instead, Harborside co-founder Steve DeAngelo says his biggest concern is newcomers gumming up the works. Some people just like to take their time at the dispensary, especially people navigating the buying experience for the first time. In a tourist-heavy place like the Coachella Valley, that could potentially be a problem.
Conrad Gregory, government relations and business development manager with Harborside, agrees. “For a lot of folks, this will be new to them,” Gregory said. “How do you help them make a decision that doesn’t take away the No. 1 factor for a drive-thru, which is speed and convenience? You can’t have a 30-minute transaction.”
Still, it’s hard to imagine a more seamless and convenient cannabis buying experience than a drive-thru. And for now, Harborside in Desert Hot Springs, located behind a gas station right off Interstate 10, is the only place in SoCal to get it.