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Show HN: Potbox – A premium cannabis subscription club (potbox.com)
87 points by austinheap on July 8, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 53 comments

Anyone interested in the subject must read the US Supreme Court case Gonzales v. Raich to understand the serious and weird risks involved.

Raich was a terminally ill old lady, living in CA, who in compliance with state law and under her doctor's oversight, was growing 6 pot plants for her personal medical use. She was subjected to a federal DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) home-invasion raid wherein said plants were seized.

Raich argued the legality of growing the plants for personal medical use under state law, intra-state, alleging doing so in no way affected interstate commerce and thus was not subject to federal regulation & seizure (and violently so at that).

The Court ruled that her growing her own pot for personal use did affect interstate commerce by reducing demand in an illegal interstate market.

No, I'm not kidding. Yes, they said that.

While the current federal administration may be opting for leniency in enforcing controlled substance laws, the next (1.5 years away, whichever party) may choose to resume aggressive enforcement to the limits of the law which SCOTUS has defined, which as Raich shows is very, very expansive. I suspect a, say, premium cannabis subscription club might be first on the DEA hit list.

[PS: the ruling in Raich may have been affected by the pending Stewart case, which was remanded in light of Raich. If Raich had been ruled to the reverse, Stewart would have in likewise reasoning legalized convicted felons building machineguns at home (legal under Washington state law). I'm not kidding about that either.]

Would be better off arguing any or all of the following:

* Cannabis has demonstrated medicinal value, directly contradicting statute. Statue provides no evidence of, nor ability to verify, its claim that there is a lack of evidence of medical value.

* Individual prohibition requires a constitutional amendment a la amendment 18.

* Founding leaders of US grew hectares of cannabis. System is in gross hypocrisy.

No, one would not be better off making these arguments in court.

> Cannabis has demonstrated medicinal value, directly contradicting statute. Statue provides no evidence of, nor ability to verify, its claim that there is a lack of evidence of medical value.

Please cite a case of a law overturned in the US judicial system because of medical value.

> Individual prohibition requires a constitutional amendment a la amendment 18.

Again, please cite case law. I'm pretty sure you don't need a constitutional amendment to outlaw possession of a type of good.

> Founding leaders of US grew hectares of cannabis. System is in gross hypocrisy.

Seriously? It wasn't outlawed until the modern era. By your logic, should slavery still be legal since founding fathers owned slaves?

Case law is largely irrelevant. You know what existed before 'case law'?

I think the logic is sound: Party A (statute) argues a->x, b->y, c->z. Party B shows a, b, c don't actually hold in reality and therefore you cannot conclude x, y, or z based on a, b, or c.

Statue is therefore meaningless.

Amendment 18 & 21 set the precedent. Amendments 4, 9, & 10 provide huge cover.

>By your logic, should slavery still be legal since founding fathers owned slaves?

I didn't expound my whole logic, but the largest difference is that slaves are human beings and cannabis is a plant.

Also note, slavery is outlawed by the US constitution. Cannabis is not.

SCOTUS has demonstrated, as I pointed to in Raich, a willingness to engage in staggering contortions to reach/justify/support a goal. Accepting your reasoning, however correct it may (or may not) be, would mean massive changes in what constitutes contraband and how it may be suppressed - a degree of change SCOTUS is rarely willing to cause (and certainly not over cannabis).

Your reasoning has been tried, and failed. People are working very hard to make such reasoning work, and are making little progress.

You're thinking of arguments in the conventional, everyday sense. The legal system deals in legal arguments.

The point ctdonath was making was that the Supreme Court has ruled that private, personal cultivation of marijuana, even when in accordance with state laws, has an effect on interstate commerce. The relevance of the effect on interstate commerce is that the activity - growing marijuana - falls under the purview of federal law and federal law enforcement agencies.

To bring it back to your suggestions and the distinction between conventional and legal arguments, ask yourself this: for each suggested argument, think of two worlds with one being a world where your argument is absolutely correct and the other being a world where your argument is absolutely incorrect. Is there a difference between these two worlds in whether or how personal marijuana cultivation affects the illegal interstate marijuana market?

Following your line of arguing (based on your characterization of the SC's logic), all activities can likely be shown to fall under the purview of federal law and federal law enforcement agencies as essentially all activities affect your local environment, and in turn all activities that interact with your local environment, which will include many activities directly or indirectly impacting commerce which will then impact interstate commerce.

This line of argument can be used to justify federal involvement in anything. This makes it useless in drawing any interesting distinction, nor does it address any of my original arguments.

That is exactly, and insanely, what the Supreme Court ruled.

I do think there is some truth to the argument that individuals' actions have global consequences.

However, I do not think the US Supreme Court has real claim to be the final, global arbiter. Usurping power is, however, the US Supreme Court's demonstrated prerogative. It's pretty much how the institution began its life.


- "enter" was pretty far on the right side, and didn't seem intuitive

- may want to add geo-ip service to forewarn visitors of legal status and if it's a serviced area

Other comment:

- sampler packs would be nice for first-timers. especially strains on the far sides of the spectrum. maybe do a free sampler if they buy 3 months in advance?

- when do you plan to expand into CO, OR, AK and WA?

- for year-round sun growth are you just planning for low yields in the winter time? is your supply accommodating that?

Also, it didn't say anything about the effects of the strains. I personally know very little about pot, but when you say things like "It’s smooth on the tongue and nose, while giving a delicate blend of sativa and indica qualities that make for a well balanced hybrid." it basically means nothing to me as a total novice. I think it would make a lot more sense to list the effects of the strain and what an intended user might experience. I'd make your listing much more geared to newbies, who would likely benefit the most from a sampler style offering.

Hi Free Kill,

Ian here, co-founder, thanks for that feedback. We’ll be refining those sections :) Effects can range from person to person, especially depending on how much cannabis you consume. We also stay away from making promises on that end as well, as it does not effect everyone the same. As a general rule of thumb (we should make this more-clear) sativa has more of a “mind” high and indica has more of a “body high”. Depending on what the plants are crossed, variations fall somewhere in-between those two experiences depending on the person.

I was thinking about this same idea for awhile, and maybe this might catch on.. but heres the general issues I found from talking with customers in a major metropolitan area in California. One delivery for most dispensaries or services are everywhere. Theres no need for most people to expect random strains when they can choose and get it on demand. The variety of strains don't vary that much from dispensary to dispensary so unless they are growing unique strains that are unique to their service. Dispensaries are everywhere. You can literally find 3 to 5+ dispensaries in a 10 mile radius in most parts of my city. Most people like going into the shop and seeing whats available and talking about weed. The biggest challenge as other pointed out is delivery of the product. You have to have either connect with existing dispensaries to distribute your product, but if thats the case the customer has to be a member of that dispensary or you have to be your own dispensary. No credit card processing is another big challenge.

Either way best of luck to these guys.

>Most people

Do you have the data from your study? I'd be interested in checking it out.

I know I sometimes enjoy getting to try a sampling of something that varies a lot. Especially, if I do not have much experience in that particular market. How (or, better, why) should I discriminate between the thousands of strains of cannabis? Why not try out a variety of claimed high quality strains?

The only way you seem to be able to pay is with a credit card, so I guess they already solved that challenge?

>How (or, better, why) should I discriminate between the thousands of strains of cannabis?

Well thats why people like going to a dispensary and talking to the staff, even other customers are very helpful in this area. Usually the staff are incredibly knowledgable (this is just in my own personal experience from researching this).

>Why not try out a variety of claimed high quality strains?

Most dispensaries do offer various levels of quality usually you can tell by price, but like I said theres not a huge amount of variety. Its seems this company is going with the sustainable/ethical route, but I really don't know how most indoor grown hydroponics is not sustainable or ethical.

I'd really be concerned with the credit card processing. I would guess even if they were just a middle man to other dispensaries its still likely to get shut down or I have heard of high risk credit card processors, but I really don't have many details on that.

This won't be available in my state for the foreseeable future (current new admin unlikely to relax laws anytime soon) but just out of curiosity, I looked at the site and saw your typical cannabis buds and joints.

Is this still the norm as other delivery methods have gained popularity? I haven't smoked cannabis in a long time but I also stopped smoking anything a few years ago as well. Aren't more people moving toward edibles, vaporizers, and the like? I know you can use "plant" cannabis in lots of vaporizers that minimize the combustion of vegetable matter but I guess I just assumed that in places where you weren't dependent on black market dealers trying to cut costs and streamline, it would be more about hash oil or candies or any other form with no smoke or at least minimal smoke involved.

I guess I don't know much about the market as legal options aren't available to me and I got tired of dealing with the black market sources. Just seems most friends who still use cannabis for fun or for medicine have moved past joints and bong rips whenever possible.

Seems like a "premium" service would be just the place to find those arguably premium products.

Hi soylentcola,

Ian here, co-founder of Potbox. Very good question. This is something that we might explore in the future, but right now we wanted to get our core product out and branch out from there based on feedback. From our experience, concentrates seems to be a lot popular with younger age groups that don’t really seek out farm-to-table products (they are also super strong). On your last point, a lot of our user-base use premium vaporizer systems like the Volcano, which is able to vaporize your cannabis without the use of chemicals. Most concentrates are made using chemicals (like butane) and you will taste it, we want to avoid adding any additional chemicals into something that can be enjoyed safely without them. We aren’t ruling it out, but for right now we are focusing on our core product, premium all-natural cannabis.

As for editables, this is a very gray area of the cannabis industry right now. They can be pretty scary if taken in excess and it’s very difficult to measure exact doses contained within an editable and how much someone should consume. The way we see it is that there’s just so many variables in editables, from production to effects, that we thought we’d hold off on that for right now.

Many people I know (UK) prefer smoking it for couple of reasons, some of which I can agree with and others not. Many people I know (UK) prefer smoking cannabis for couple of reasons even though it is less efficent than vaping and cannabis is very expensive here. I am told by some that they "just like rolling". I imagine thats similar reasoning to why people buy viynals over CD's, they prefer what they know or like the feel of them. I can only speculate here because I do not understand either prefence myself. Others claim they don't get as high with a vape, the only one they have used is mine, a MFLB and admittidly the batteries are a bit worn out. It takes a bit of getting used too and they might just have been "using it wrong". I find it easier to get higher with my vape compared with smoking. A vape is also quite expensive, and of course many people when considering the investment think of how much cannabis they could buy for the price of the vape.

Edibals are too much work for a daily smoker and hard to dose. They are not sold widely at all in the UK.

How will they ship this? It is probably a big crime to commercially mail pot across state lines that have not legalized and decriminalized it.

It's illegal to transport marijuana between Oregon and Washington currently because as soon as you cross state lines it becomes a federal matter.

Just to be clear; it is a federal crime before you cross state lines too. It is just that the current administration has represented that it will not pursue federal charges for cannabis that follows stat law. The current, or next administration, could change its minds at anytime without any need for a vote or law or judicial decision. At that time, the DEA could arrest and a U.S. District Attorney could pursue charges. The Federal Court would be obligated to convict and individuals would be subject to Federal Punishment.

Until Federal Law changes, this is a real threat to cannabis users. Not to mention, the ATF could go after anyone that uses marijuana and possesses a firearm. The way the statutes are written, it is a federal crime to possess or use a firearm (even for sporting purposes) and be a consumer of cannabis.

I was wondering this too - I realize this only exists right now in a small test market...does that mean you're relying on in-person delivery?

Austin here -- one of the co-founders of Potbox. And yes, you're correct: we're only available in California for patients that have their Prop 215 recommendation from their doctor.

It is very much illegal to cross state lines with cannabis currently, so we're starting in California and then will expand to new markets thoughtfully.

I put in a San Jose zip code to test and it failed saying "not in my area".

Hi Jason,

Ian here, co-founder, we are not in San Jose just yet. Right now we are only in San Francisco and Los Angeles with plans to expand, stay tuned!

Oh sorry for the confusion. In one of the comments Austin said only operating in California. I took that the wrong way :-). I feel like your idea will be lucrative. I think there will be more and more regulations passed which might make more paperwork and compliance for you guys.

That Quicksand font is extremely hard to read in Chrome on Windows. Even zoomed up to 150% or more it's still hard to read. And regardless of font, the body copy is much too small without zooming.

Know your market: a substantial portion of your patients may be older people who have trouble getting around and less-than-perfect eyes, unlike a 20-something web designer with 20/20 vision and a giant monitor.

You can still fit the same text in about the same space or just a little more: simply choose a more readable font, and reduce the excessive line height to allow for a larger font size.

Hey Stratoscope,

Ian here, co-founder, thanks for the feedback. You make a very valid point and we are working to refine our design and type on our site. There’s definitely room for improvement and optimization on that front. Keep an eye out!

I recall news stories about legal pot businesses in Washington not being able to keep their money in banks because of federal regulations, so I'm curious how they're able to take credit card payments. Is it different for medical marijuana? (I wouldn't think so, as that is still illegal federally).

Hey, good question! Austin here, one of the co-founders of Potbox..

It really is a state-by-state and bank-by-bank (or credit union) issue. Same with the credit card gateways -- some are completely fine with it and others freak out right away.

When I spoke with SVB they told me their view on it was similar to Bitcoin. Oddly enough, SVB will no longer open accounts for Bitcoin startups. :-p

They'd have to use a high-risk credit card processor, which probably charges higher fees to offset the risk. Such processors exist, for other businesses with a higher incidence of fraud.

The delivery service I use in MV takes credit cards with square or paypal or some other phone attachment reader.

In fact, most of the dispensaries in the Bay take CCs.

I think they're charging for the delivery and giving the customer the cannabis for "free"

The scrolling is completely broken here. Chrome Version 43.0.2357.130 / OS X 10.10.3.

Hey slig, can you send me a screenshot by chance? We'd love to fix it obviously. Thank you! My e-mail: austin@potbox.com

A screenshot won't help much. It has some kind of acceleration so when you scroll it moves twice as far as you'd like.

Agreed, it leaves a lot to be desired. I'd recommend removing the "smooth scrolling" completely.

I'm not seeing prices anywhere. Are the prices available yet?

$149.99 per month

What's the total weight of cannabinoids?

Half an ounce - two strains, a quarter oz. of each Edit: Oh, "cannibinoids" my bad. Maybe that's in the breakdown they deliver with each strain.

Flower weight is good enough (assuming flowers aren't 1% THC 1% CBD) :) Thanks.

one tier only for now- price quoted in techcrunch article

Ok, I'll ask. What techcrunch article?

Hey Austin, looks like a very nice service. Let me know if you'd be interested in integrating with our API at https://prestodoctor.com/ (for new recommendations and patient verification) team@prestodoctor.com

"You must be over 21 to enter" Haha! The warning kind of works like a teaser to build hype, as if to say "this website is totally legit way to score weed" without violating the premium brand. Love it

Your sharing links at the bottom of each strain appear broken for me, intermittently. Firefox Dev Edition 41.0a2.

Is the 14g/mo some legal thing? I know people who smoke a lot less and a LOT more than that.

Awesome idea!

slackerne.ws, amirite?

Bok bok!

It was only a matter of time, thanks internet.

I just can't see myself supporting marijuana startups unless they are doing something about the millions of people who are locked up nationwide for sale or possession. It's great you saw and opportunity to make some money but people's lives have been destroyed before we got to the point you could stroll in and make an easy buck.

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