The Guild, a subscription-based marijuana delivery service, launched in San Francisco, California, this year — on April 20, or "420," no less.
Founded by two New Yorkers who transplanted west in pursuit of like-minded cannabis users, The Guild is being dubbed the "Birchbox of marijuana" for its familiar business model.
Members of The Guild, a non-profit collective, browse the company's online catalogue of flowers, concentrates, edibles, and cannabidiols and customize a box of goodies. Like Birchbox with its sample-sized lipsticks and lotions, The Guild can provide products with low doses of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, for members to try before they buy in bulk.
In order to participate, customers must verify their status as a medical marijuana patient in California by uploading a doctor recommendation.
Packages arrive sealed for freshness and packaged in nondescript boxes, to respect the patient's privacy. Customers are encouraged to schedule recurring deliveries, making the process of selecting, purchasing, and enjoying a little bud easier than ever.
"We're the modern-day milkman," says Ronald "RJ" Falcioni, CEO and cofounder of The Guild.
Raised in a family of small-business owners, whose ventures include swimming pools and excavation, Falcioni studied at Quinnipiac University and passed the New York State Bar Examination at age 25.
When New York legalized medical marijuana use in summer 2014, some language in the Compassionate Care Act caught his eye. The law states that "registered organizations will be able to dispense up to a 30-day supply of medical marijuana to certified patients" and that "patients may only possess up to a 30-day supply of medical marijuana."
Falcioni asked himself, what's a 30-day supply? A week's supply, or a day's supply? He and his now-business partner Emily Thrope, then a real estate agent with Douglas Elliman working in New York City, began quantifying their own use and asking friends to do the same.
The answer? It varies. Drastically — based on the patient's illness, tolerance, and past experiences with marijuana.
When Falcioni and Thrope moved to San Francisco, they saw a need among medical marijuana patients for a consistent, reliable source of high-quality cannabis, in quantities that were lab-tested and labeled. They launched The Guild with those users in mind.
"How do you sell pot to a pothead? You don’t. They already are going to get it," Thrope says.
She says their target customer is a patient whose "life doesn't revolve around marijuana," such as the 60-year-old cancer survivor who has never lit up in her life, or the mother whose 2-year-old son finds relief from his seizures by taking cannabidiol pills.
For many medical marijuana patients, quality is as much a priority as availability.
Anytime The Guild receives a new product from one of its suppliers, it sends the product to an independent lab that specializes in determining the cannabinoid content. The item's potency will be clearly labeled so patients won't consume too much or too little based on their prescriptions.
Still, California has no statewide labeling regulations, so The Guild deserves credit for trying. The non-profit coughs up $1,250 per month for 25 tests, and it may use up three or four tests on a single strain of marijuana in order to check for residual pesticides, terpenes, and solvents.
"How can it be medicinal if you don’t know what’s in it?" Falcioni asks in disbelief, stunned by the number of edibles manufacturers who refuse to test their goods.
Many expect the regulations on testing and labeling to tighten once California legalizes recreational use, which could happen in the 2016 election thanks to a ballot initiative that's garnering momentum.
Until then, The Guild will continue to set an industry precedent.
"Stoners are after the latest trend in strain," Falcioni says. "We're reaching people who aren't looking for weed."
They need medicine.