The Autonomous Car Revolution Will be Great for the Cannabis Business
Marijuana experts are high on the potential of self-driving cars.
In my vision of the future, I summon a car via an app on my phone. The car arrives 15 minutes later, without a driver. I sit in the passenger seat—and they are all passenger seats—plug my powerful porta-vape into the USB outlet, and set it for steam. Within seconds, the car fills with a delicious lemon-scented cannabis haze. I head off into the day, unstressed about traffic, high as balls.
On my daily drives, as I rage righteously against idiots who pass on the right, lope on the left, or text in any lane, I keep this vision in mind. Can’t I just kick back in traffic and get high? This autonomous-driving weed paradise dream is a hopelessly selfish and bourgeois future shock. But it’s mine. It’s also not a joke—or at least, I think it’s not. To check, I made some calls.
To begin, I summoned sources in Northern California, which is about to be hit by a cannabis tsunami. Support for legalizing recreational weed sits at 70 percent in California. Not even “being a smug liberal jerk” polls that high in the Golden State. California is also ground zero for the autonomous-car revolution. I was curious about how weed tech and car tech are evolving together.
First, I talked to a money guy: Troy Dayton, the CEO of The Arclight Group, which has invested in numerous “cannabis tech plays” with names like Ease and Meadow. He repeatedly mentioned the phrase “The Uber Of Cannabis,” which will either excite you or make you shrivel depending on your political proclivities. He didn’t mean that “pot is becoming the same thing cars,” and vice versa, though he did float the possibilities of making interior fixtures out of hemp. Instead, he said, “it’s creating apps whereby people can choose what they want, hit a button, and have it show up.” In other words, something is going to have to deliver all the weed. Given the way that sector of the economy is headed, it will end up being self-driving cars.
Austin Heap, the CEO of PotBox, a premium subscription cannabis club in San Francisco, talked to me about the possibility of autonomous vehicles delivering pot all over the country, and the world. He mentioned a robotic pizza cart that’s already delivering Domino’s in Australia, tech that will definitely translate when it comes to the wide world of cannabis. Exhibit A: this magnificently self-absorbed video of a drone dropping off a box of premium gange to a delighted hipster in the park.
“Autonomy is going to be huge,” Heap said. “Marijuana needs a lot of little steps to move around. It will keep the quality of the freshness high. It will reduce the error rate along the entire supply chain.”
Clearly, there are plans in place for people who want to use autonomous cars to help them get rich off the weed boom. But what about those of us who just want to use autonomy to help us get high? Troy Dayton posited this likely scenario: “Think about what happens in Napa with cannabis. Could you imagine how wine tastings change with self-driving cars? You go from wine tasting to cannabis pairing to wine tasting and you get in this little car and it takes you to the next place.”
That’s an entirely plausible description of a one-percenter weekend, circa 2025. To get a sense of what my middle-tier weed/carlife might actually be like, I emailed a couple of my favorite forward-thinking stoners in Denver: Brittany Driver, a cannabis PR and social-media consultant, and Ry Prichard, who refers to himself as a “professional weed smoker, cannabis enthusiast, and weed photographer.” My questionnaire, and their answers, follow.
1. If cars are fully autonomous, and you don't have to drive, what are the possibilities for consumption?
Brittany Driver: People are already consuming in their cars. But if and when cars are fully autonomous and human operation is no longer an issue, all sorts of things will be going on.
Ry Prichard: The average stoner is still very much scared of being pulled over with weed in the car or while smoking, so some will never get over that. The rest, though, will definitely take advantage of the hands-free nature of the whole thing and enjoy smoking a joint or bowl or doing a dab while getting to their destination. An hour or more sitting in a car that’s driving itself seems like a great time for recreational activities, and for most cannabis users, that means it's time to get high!
2. What form will that consumption take?
RP: With no hands required and a car that can smoothly and calmly brake and turn, it'll be way easier to roll a joint and drive. There’s nothing worse than a friend slamming on the brakes and sliding your weed pile off onto the floorboard. Robo-car, I assume, will be a little more ginger on the brake, which is a major win.
BD: I imagine people will dab and smoke joints more. You can eat edibles, vape, and wear transdermal patches now if you want to, and no other drivers are really going to be the wiser.
3. What kind of weed tech do you think will develop to take advantage of this new car technology?
BD: Anything that can plug into your car, will.
RP: Built-in power and attachments for vaporizing will probably get increasingly common in the cars of Tesla-driving Trustafarian stoners. Since it’s still illegal to smoke in public or in a moving vehicle, a Tesla-like cabin filtration system capable of de-dankifying a car in a matter of seconds should a cop decide to pull over your robo-driver would be key.
4. Will everyone just be riding around high all the time?
BD: Will everyone just be riding around drunk all the time? I don't know, we'll have to wait and see.
RP: I hope so. The world would probably be a better place. If everyone is capable of safely getting high as giraffe ass while merging onto the 405, road rage may be a thing of the past.
5. How much better/worse/more delightful/more annoying will riding in cars be when they are autonomous and you are high?
RP: Depending on the type of stoner a person is, it may go one way or the other. An inquisitive, dreamy type will likely be thinking of how crazy it is that they are being driven around by a car that is shooting sound waves off of other cars like a two-ton metal dolphin while being guided by signals from space, while someone who tends to be paranoid will probably just think about all the things that can go wrong and talk themselves out of using autopilot altogether.
BD: I think it will be as close to being inside a video game as I'll ever get.
I can’t possible think of a more delightful and amusing future than the one Brittany and Ry describe. Hopefully, we can all get driven across the cannabis bridge before we die. The first transdermal patch is on me