January 2020

High hopes: Driving the Business

Part 7: The white vans army fuels and supplies the industry from grow to store.

The Napa Valley of Weed is driven by the white utility vans you may see around Southern Colorado. Trucks like a Cannabis Transport, a cannabis courier service, could have as much as $75,000 of various cannabis products at any one time. (Noah Weeks for PULP)

By Ana Mashek

High Hopes is a collaboration between PULP and Colorado College’s Journalism Institute.

The standard white van with Colorado plates you see on the road might be any other maintenance driver.

Or, it could be a Cannabis Transport employee who’s tasked with driving an estimated average of $75,000 of marijuana around at a time.

“All of our drivers run different routes everyday,” says owner Patrick Halpin, who maps them out. They also must remain as “discreet as possible.”

Cannabis is no ordinary industry — it’s high risk and highly regulated. So much so that standard courier services aren’t allowed to take on such a task. As of 2017, anyone who transports cannabis in Colorado needs to have a license, according to Halpin.

It wasn’t always this way. Halpin speaks of the “golden days” where “literally all you needed was a badge.”

While growing facilities, dispensaries and shops selling MIPs (marijuana-infused products like concentrates, edibles or vape pens) alike theoretically could obtain licenses and complete deliveries on their own, it doesn’t make sense financially. This is where services such as Halpin’s come in — third-party transportation companies.

Essentially, their clients are the growing facilities and MIPs. Dispensaries then put their orders in with these vendors, and MIPs and grows work with the transport service to arrange a pickup date. Cannabis Transport considers itself the “middleman.”

In a day’s work, Halpin’s drivers make deliveries all over the state. Some even go as far as Durango, a six-and-a-half-hour drive from Cannabis Transport’s warehouse in Denver.

“Podcasts have saved me,” said Adam Graham, a driver who frequently makes the longer trips.

“Everybody likes the weed guy,” he added. For this reason, he’s never concerned for his safety. “Plus, I don’t know, it’s Colorado. Everybody seems just really chill here.”

When it comes to hiring drivers like Graham, “I don’t want a super stoner,” Halpin said, but he does look for someone who’s both passionate and experienced with cannabis. They’re then able to easily relate to the people manning operations along the trip.

A different form of cannabis transportation is emerging, however. Getting your hands on some could become as simple as getting a pizza delivered to your home or takeout from a local restaurant via Grubhub.

Colorado Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, a champion of the cannabis industry, signed a new law in May that gives local Colorado governments the ability to allow home delivery of the product.

Whatever the decision, consumers won’t have cannabis at their doorstep until 2020. Permitting for medical marijuana delivery will begin Jan. 2, and exactly a year later, permitting for retail marijuana will begin.

The City of Pueblo has yet to officially discuss whether to allow it, though Trevor Gloss, an assistant city attorney, said Pueblo Mayor Nicholas Gradisar has expressed interest in it. City Council members have been receptive to cannabis ordinances in the past, he added, so Gloss believes it could pass.

“You never know,” he said.

About the Authors

Miriam Brown

Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, Miriam is a student journalist at Colorado College’s Journalism Institute. She worked for CC’s independent student newspaper, The Catalyst, for two years in a variety of roles, including reporter, section editor, copy editor, and co-editor-in-chief.

Michael Gorman

Junior, studying race, ethnicity, and migration studies and journalism at Colorado College. From Bethesda, MD, with journalism experience in the Journalism Institute at CC as well as running The Sideline Observer, a student-run online media organization. @SidelineOMike

Noah Weeks

Noah grew up in St. Louis, MO, and is a senior Film and Media Studies major at Colorado College. His interests include public policy, political journalism, and sustainable international development, and his documentary “Guns for Everyone” was featured on Rocky Mountain PBS’s series “In-Short.” Noah can be found on @WeeksNoah.

Ana Mashek

Ana is from Swarthmore, PA. She’s currently a sophomore at Colorado College, where she is pursuing a degree within their Journalism Institute. She works for the school’s independently run newspaper, The Catalyst, as both a writer and layout editor. @ana_mashek

This series was produced by Colorado College journalism students and PULP.

High Hopes

What has happened to Colorado’s ‘Napa Valley’ of weed?

Intro: In 2014, Pueblo was referred to as the “Napa Valley” of cannabis, but by whom?

Part 2: License and Registration, Please

What does it take to earn a license in a tightening Pueblo cannabis industry?

Part 2

Part 3: Rising Tide in the Desert 

How federal cannabis regulation trickles down to raise water prices for Pueblo businesses.

Part 3

Part 4: Bloom Doom, Seedless in Pueblo

How federal cannabis regulation trickles down to raise water prices for Pueblo businesses.

Part 4

Part 5: From the Ground Up

Fluctuating market prices have made hitting profit thresholds a veritable science for cannabis growers.

Part 5

Part 6: What happened to the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Testing? 

With only one functioning cannabis testing facility, how can retail owners and growers be sure of their product?

Part 6

Part 7: Driving the Business

The white vans army fuels gets the cannabis from grow to the store.

Part 7

Part 8: Seeds to Retail Shelves

What happens in a Pueblo dispensary, anyway?

Part 8

Part 9: Not One Typical consumer

The white vans army fuels gets the cannabis from grow to the store.

Part 9

Part 10: High Hopes: Profit, Taxes and the Budweiser of Cannabis

Which companies have found success or failure in the new and tumultuous landscape of cannabis in Pueblo County?

Part 10