For something that’s still technically a federal crime, marijuana is a booming business. But as the nation’s weed prohibition laws slowly thaw, companies are already carving out slices of what is expected to be a lucrative industry. And what would an emerging industry like the weed economy be without a subscription service? Never fear: You’ll soon be able to order weed from an app and have it delivered to your door every month. This is the good stuff, too.
Potbox is a startup launching today that takes Warby Parker’s high-quality aesthetic and Netflix’s original deliver-by-mail subscription model and merges them with the world’s most popular schedule I drug. Billing itself as a premium marijuana subscription club, Potbox will ship a box of high-quality, sustainably grown cannabis to your door, directly from the farm.
“We’re big believers that people should know what they’re putting in their body and have a choice,” says Potbox cofounder and CEO Austin Heap. “Right now, if you go into a store that sells OG Kush, for example, you really have no idea what that is. With Potbox, we watch over the entire process to make sure that our high standards are met.”
For Potbox, that means partnering only with outdoor farms that use organic soil and nutrients and avoid pesticides and other chemicals. Plenty of pot smokers would be delighted to simply have weed delivered to their door, but Potbox isn’t content to stop at that basic concept. The seven-person, San Francisco-based startup is banking on the allure of sustainability and superior quality to take their product up a notch. That’s probably a wise move, since the new marijuana industry is only getting started and it won’t be long before half a dozen competitors are offering to ship weed to people’s doors.
At launch, Potbox is operating in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Since California hasn’t yet legalized marijuana for recreational use, the service requires a doctor’s prescription for medicinal marijuana. If things go well, Potbox will presumably eye markets like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, where marijuana is decriminalized. But Heap declines to specify where PotBox might expand next.
To be fair, it’s hard for a company like Potbox to commit to specific plans this early (they’re working on closing their seed investment round) when the evolution of public policy is still underway. Indeed, scaling is a challenge for any startup. But it’s especially tricky for a company whose product is illegal for recreational use in all but four states and the District of Columbia. In fact, when it comes to scaling, their tech stack is the least of Potbox’s concerns.
“The technology is very easy to scale,” says Heap. “It’s a matter of combining farms that meet our standards that are excited about the Potbox concept with our technology. We also have relationships with growers in other states, which already meet our high standards. So we’ll be able to expand into new markets with minimal capital investment.”
For $149, Potbox will ship a total of 10 grams of premium cannabis. Each box contains two jars containing four grams apiece of different strains and two pre-rolled joints. The box also contains information about the source of the cannabis and lab results showing the precise levels of THC and other chemicals. This level of transparency is another way they plan on setting Potbox apart from the inevitable flood of competitors.
“I like to compare it to ordering Chinese food through a mobile app,” says Heap. “When the delivery guy gets to your house, he didn’t buy the food, cook it, prep it, package it. He’s just there to deliver it. If you had a question about it or wanted to know about the quality or ingredients you couldn’t ask the delivery driver. With Potbox, it’s like having the master chef who cooked the food deliver it. We know every little detail about how it was made, how it will taste, the effects it will have on your body.”
For most casual users, this level of detail is well beyond what they’ve ever expected from their weed-smoking experience. To Heap, the company’s growth will require a certain amount of consumer education. But once smokers learn what’s possible, he wagers, the traditional means of procuring pot will seem even more antiquated. After all, isn’t that what Silicon Valley disruption is all about?
“Potbox is a pretty typical Silicon Valley tech startup,” says Heap. “We just happen to be focused on the cannabis industry.”