Our alcohol delivery app launched in Kelowna and Saskatoon on February 7th, 2019
But the idea started as a cannabis delivery app.
Designated Delivery was an idea born out of the desire to bring cannabis delivery to consumers once the plant was finally legalized in Canada. A group of 4 founders began working on Designated Delivery in August, 2017. As the idea for the app began to take shape, alcohol delivery was a natural addition. The mission became to help reduce impaired driving. And also to provide customers who can really benefit from cannabis with access to the still stigmatized substance.
Cannabis – Can we do this?
We quickly began to realize that although cannabis would be legalized in Canada, building a business around it was not going to be easy.
Some of the hurdles we’ve had to overcome, and are still dealing with:
Banking With Cannabis
We talked to several banks who wouldn’t open an account for us because of our involvement with cannabis. We even opened an account with one bank who later changed their mind. We finally found a credit union who was willing to work with Designated Delivery.
Facebook/Instagram Advertising With Cannabis
Advertising is obviously very important for a new business. Facebook and Instagram are hugely popular, and a great place to build a presence for new brands. We started advertising on the platforms. While some of the ads ran no problem, others were banned and taken down. We were very careful to follow the advertising guidelines to the best of our knowledge, but our ad account was disabled. After many attempts to contact Facebook support for an explanation, ‘we don’t support your business model’ was all that we got. Since advertising alcohol to users of age is definitely allowed and very common, we came to the conclusion that the cannabis leaf in our logo must have been the problem. Facebook support continued to let us know that their decision was final. Even after switching to a maple leaf in our logo, and appealing the decision several times.We can no longer advertise on Facebook and Instagram. So we really appreciate when our followers like, comment on, and share our posts to help spread the word!
Apple App Store
We chose to first release our app to the Apple app store, and work on the Android version next. When submitting early versions to Apple, it quickly became apparent how difficult it would be to include cannabis delivery in our app. Initially, the Cannabis tab just said ‘Coming Soon’, and Apple wouldn’t even allow that. At this time, legalization hadn’t happened yet. So we removed all references to cannabis with the intent to add back later, after legalization. For reasons you’ll read below, we decided to launch with just alcohol. So we launched our alcohol delivery app with no mention of cannabis, other than the leaf in our logo. The app was operational for a week or so when we submitted an important update to fix some crashing issues. Apple denied our update, stating that we sell ‘marijuana products’. This was incredibly frustrating. They had already approved the app once. We did not sell cannabis. And we had important updates we wanted to push out to our brand new customers immediately. We eventually switched every instance of our logo on the app to the version that includes a maple leaf instead. Finally, our updates were approved, several days later. Here we were, having our app denied because of a leaf in a logo, while apps like Weed Maps exist in the Apple app store.
Canada’s Cannabis Laws & Regulations
Canada became the second nation in the world to legalize cannabis on October 17, 2018. While we watched closely, the laws and regulations surrounding cannabis were quite unclear leading up to legalization day. Every province has different rules and unfortunately BC decided to not allow delivery whatsoever. Saskatchewan would allow delivery but made it essentially impossible. They won’t allow us to advertise that we deliver it, or show pricing of the products in our app. We initially tried to push back on these regulations and find a way around them. But in order to continue development and stop pushing back our launch date, we decided to focus on alcohol delivery for launch.
Canada + Cannabis
Canada has some growing pains to go through as we find our footing with the legalization of cannabis. We are hopeful and optimistic that as time goes on, the regulations will change and allow businesses like ours to provide this safe and convenient service. And we’ll be ready when they do.