Why you should care

It’s a monthly box of buzz for pot connoisseurs.

It feels good to get something in the mail that isn’t a bill. Like monthly subscription box services that send you cool gear. But now there’s a new player, and this one’s all about helping your high.

Marvina is a San Francisco-based high-end cannabis subscription box service. As long as you have a doctor’s recommendation (which they verify) it’ll hand-deliver a sampling of the best buds to you every month, or whenever you like. A connoisseur’s cannabis club, if you will. Subscribers choose between sativa (an energetic high) and indica (more of a sink-in-the-sofa mellow feeling) boxes — priced from $95 to $325 — which let subscribers try new and interesting strains. Because Girl Scout Cookies are sooo last year. So far, Marvina has had fewer than 100 sign-ups, but it’s early yet — less than a month.

The goal is not to make people into stoners, but to cater to stoners.

Co-founder Dane Pieri came up with the idea because he was intimidated and overwhelmed by the cannabis dispensaries. “It’s like when you’re in the grocery store at the wine aisle; we didn’t know what to do,” he told OZY. He thought he’d create a service where choice wasn’t in the equation. But how could his differ from other weed services — like Eaze — and be more than a delivery service? He believes it’s about the education, which is an integral part of his service. (Each box has a printout that explains the strains’ effects, flavor profiles and histories.) Marvina’s been compared to Birchbox, but Pieri likens it to the wine-of-the-month-club model. His goal is not to make people into stoners, but to cater to stoners. “People who use cannabis have pretty predictable usage patterns every month,” he said.

Yes, but is the service legal? Cannabis industry attorney and Consult Canna consultant Rob Hunt has concerns. Among them: Marvina uses third-party delivery, which may leave gaps in end-user verification. Hunt thinks that delivering weed can be a great thing, but he doesn’t believe San Francisco has the right regulatory models in place yet. “It’s still a schedule 1 drug,” he added. Indeed, Nestdrop, an app service that delivers alcohol and had planned to deliver weed just got sued by the City of Los Angeles for a concept that allegedly “violates voter-approved restrictions” that limit the number of cannabis dispensaries.

While Marvina co-founder Dane Pieri said that he and others in the cannabis business will be watching the Nestdrop case closely, he says that San Francisco doesn’t restrict its number of dispensaries. Marvina has commissioned extensive research from its lawyers, he adds: “We believe that what we’re doing is squarely in line with the California guidelines.”

Even so, running Marvina has made Pieri aware of the struggles of working in the cannabis industry. Banks reject business, and some companies avoid working with you. “What would take another startup 10 minutes can take weeks here,” he said. But his friends — and parents — are supportive. “They see how things are changing,” he said “You can be a legitimate business, and be in the [cannabis] industry.”

Pieri isn’t deterred and plans to expand Marvina to other weed-friendly states such as Colorado and Oregon. But until things change in the unfriendly pot states, calling a friend of a friend for a hookup is going to continue.

This OZY encore was originally published Dec. 19, 2014.

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