Pando

The new green-tech: The "Uber for pot" app just raised $1.5 million

By David Holmes , written on November 5, 2014

From The News Desk

"Uber for pot" exists because of course it does.

Last July, former Yammer executive Keith McCarty took the leap from enterprise software solutions to marijuana tech by launching Eaze, an app that allows patients to order medicinal marijuana within minutes on their smartphone.

It may sound like one of Dave Chappelle's schemes from the movie "Half Baked," but McCarty and his team are serious about providing a fast, easy way for people to access medical marijuana. His staff includes a number of executives with a history in health-care, and today the company has announced $1.5 million in funding along with a partnership with SPARC, a San Francisco-based dispensary and nonprofit advocacy collective.

"Our core values are providing an easy, quick way for patients to receive medical marijuana, and SPARC’s been performing that since Day One," McCarty says. "And what we’re able to provide together is the same SPARC experience delivered to their doorstep."

Within 24 hours of agreeing to team up, SPARC used Eaze's technology to make hundreds of deliveries. Before that, they had made zero deliveries.

You might be thinking -- doesn't "Uber for pot" already exist? Couriers who deliver marijuana and other drugs in major cities are nothing new. Users don't use a fancy app like Eaze, but they don't need to -- texting works just fine.

McCarty, continuing with the Uber metaphor, likens these delivery services to traditional taxis. Just as it's near-impossible to hail a cab on New Year's Eve, and car services come two hours late if at all on busy nights, you can't be guaranteed that "your guy" is going to be available for a delivery. Eaze, however, utilizes a network of drivers and dispensaries to make deliveries as fast and efficient as possible.

According to McCarty, the company has been making hundreds of deliveries a day, and that traction was how it was able to raise $1.5 million from "nearly 40 Silicon Valley angel and institutional investors." But not all VCs and angels may be quick to bite. After all, while Eaze works within the bounds of California state laws, let's not forget that the substance it delivers is illegal on a federal level. To that, McCarty offers an argument that's become a familiar refrain among Silicon Valley disruptors:

"We are a technology service," McCarty says. "Although we are serving the medical cannabis community, we’re not touching it at all."

That may be true, but it's still facilitating the delivery of a federally-banned substance. Regulators have come knocking on startups' doors for far less. But McCarty is confident that the laws will eventually tip in his favor.

"For the first time since 1969, the majority of Americans now support legalization." Indeed, Oregon, Washington DC, and Alaska all voted to legalize recreational marijuana last night. Florida, the only other state where marijuana was on the ballot, voted against decriminalization.

For Robert Jacobs, Executive Director of SPARC, broader acceptance of medicinal marijuana use also leads to less shame felt by the patients who need it most. He wants to see the day when a person could receive an Eaze delivery at work and experience no more of a social stigma had they ordered an antibiotic.

"As Americans are sort of cresting this majority," Jacobs says, "and, in California and the Bay Area a supermajority, it’s time for patients to come out of the shadows and into the light."