In his gray Donegal tweed cap, untucked dress shirt and jeans, Josh Clark hardly looks the part of a delivery man. Then again, he's not coming to the door with pizza or Chinese food.
On a warm afternoon last week, the 30-year-old Petaluma resident walked up to a modest single-story home in Santa Rosa's Junior College neighborhood to deliver a white envelope with about an eighth of an ounce of marijuana to a man in his mid-70s with skin cancer and compressed discs.
The delivery — worth about $45 — was a freebie for "someone who really needs it," Clark said. A general contractor by trade, Clark operates Sonoma Cannabis Caregivers, a delivery service that is part of the latest trend in the sale of medical marijuana.
With cities and counties moving to ban, restrict or regulate dispensaries of medical marijuana, a growing number of delivery services are cropping up in California, and on the North Coast. The trend takes advantage of the gray area between the state's 14-year-old "compassionate use" law and local regulations.
"There's a massive influx of people wanting to break into the industry," Clark said.
A study by California Watch, a project of the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting, found that these services, particularly in Southern California, are grabbing more and more of the medical marijuana market.
In Sonoma County, closer to the cultivation of what is regarded as the state's biggest cash crop, home delivery of medical marijuana is not as extensive as it is such areas as Los Angeles.
It's unclear exactly how many delivery services exist on the North Coast. California Norml, a group advocating the legalization of marijuana, lists about a dozen delivery services in the "North Coast and Inland."
These services advertise in newspapers, on Craigslist and on websites such as Weedmaps.com, typically offering daily deliveries to "qualified" patients with valid medical marijuana ID cards. They say the benefits of home delivery are simple.
"You want to pay $50 for a pizza and have to go get it, or $25 and have it delivered," said Lawrence, who asked that his last name not be used. He is the director of Novato-based Green Door Wellness Education Center, a medical marijuana collective that has been making deliveries for about a month.
He said the collective's storefront closed April 22 because of alleged zoning violations. Rather than fight the city of Novato, he said took his collective to the streets, delivering to homes, in parking lots, wherever it's convenient.
"They closed down our brick-and-mortar storefront, so now we're resorting to this," he said, adding that the delivery service typically is limited to a 30-minute driving radius a $50 minimum purchase.
"I can't be chasing $20 or $5. Nobody is showing up at the pharmacy with $5 looking for one pain pill," he said.
Eric Litchfield, who heads the narcotics division of the Santa Rosa Police Department, said he's aware of only one inquiry to the city for licensing of a "mobile dispensary."
"I can't keep up with the cultivation and the dispensaries," he said. "Delivery services haven't really come on the radar yet."
In Sonoma County, a delivery service called North Coast Collective was started about a month ago by a 35-year-old former Santa Rosa bank employee who was recovering from chemotherapy treatment for intestinal cancer. Tom, who asked that only his first name be used, also is a medical marijuana patient and said the collective has about 50 members.