EXCLUSIVE: Uber Says It's Making 3 Important Social Impacts With Weed Deliveries

Zinger Key Points
  • Uber Eats entered Canada in 2015 and it turned out to be “a fantastic market” to experiment in, exec says.
  • Uber Eat now offers marijuana deliveries in Toronto and 20 other cities in Ontario

With a mission to “be a go and get platform, to go anywhere and get anything,” Uber Eats’ partnership with Leafly LFLY last year to deliver weed directly to consumers' homes in Canada was a natural evolution, according to the company. 

With this evolution, Uber Technologies Inc UBER is having an effect on three social dynamics, Jessie Young, global lead of new verticals at Uber, told Benzinga’s Javier Hasse Wednesday at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in Miami Beach.

“So, the first is that by elevating cannabis on the Uber Eat App, I believe that we’re able to help combat some of the illicit markets. Not to get rid of it, but to say that you don’t need to choose the illicit market anymore,” Young said.

In addition to raising the bar both in terms of safety and quality, the tech giant thinks it can help contribute to reducing impaired driving, she said. 

The third social impact, according to the Uber executive: elevating the experience of underrepresented small to medium businesses.

"It's a real privilege to be able to work and partner with an industry that is intimate and endemic."

Why Canada? Uber Eats entered Canada in 2015 and it turned out to be “a fantastic market” to experiment with, Young said. Of course, cannabis is federally legal in Canada, unlike the U.S.

“As we started to think about what the right operating model might look like, we were really able to test them on the ground with a lot of really established merchants and in a more established legislative regime.” 

In addition to being an interesting and $3-billion market, the Canadian cannabis scene brought the opportunity for Uber to serve its customers in two ways, Young explained.

The first is on the merchant side, Uber's "bread and butter" is partnering with small to medium businesses to be able to empower their local commerce efforts. The second is on the customer side.

“When we thought about how to do that it was natural for us to partner with someone who was, as I say, really endemic in the industry and this is one of our priorities,” Young said. “And so, finding a partner that also had trust and safety at its core was really important to us.”

Uber Eats now offers marijuana deliveries in Toronto and 20 other cities in Ontario. Customers pick anything from pre-rolls to edibles and flower to accessories to be delivered to their door in around 60 minutes. The products are delivered by specific drivers free of no charge and no cash payments — the advantage of federal legality.

“If we can help advance participation in the marketplace, that is just as important as the regulations that are about reducing prohibition,” Young said.

Uber's Jessie Young and Benzinga's Javier Hasse at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference Wednesday in Miami Beach. Photo by Kelsey Wilkerson. 

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