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Team behind Drizly, an alcohol-delivery service, launches site to help get marijuana to customers

The team behind Drizly, the Boston-based alcohol-delivery marketplace, has launched an e-commerce website exclusively for marijuana deliveries.

The platform, Lantern, is a timely addition to the cannabis industry for medical marijuana patients, many of whom have been relying on delivery services during the pandemic.

“We think we’re bringing a service to the medical cannabis patient community here in the Boston area that’s really needed right now,” said Meredith Mahoney, president of Lantern.

Like Drizly, Lantern is a liaison between customers and dispensaries. Lantern doesn’t touch the marijuana products, much like Drizly never touches the alcohol. Instead, the company provides customers with an online platform for finding marijuana products and ordering them.

Delivery orders are sent to dispensaries, where employees verify that patients are certified with the state and package and deliver the items. Lantern guarantees the delivery will be at your door in 60 minutes or less.

Although the outbreak has made delivery services increasingly vital, company leaders say Lantern’s launch had been planned long before the pandemic hit the United States. In fact, they’ve been brainstorming ideas for entering the cannabis space since the end of 2017, said Drizly cofounder Justin Robinson.

Drizly even went to court last year over its plans, filing a lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court against its cofounder and former CEO, Nick Rellas. The company claimed he was trying to start his own online marijuana company in direct conflict with a noncompete agreement he had signed with Drizly, still led by his cousin and fellow cofounder, Cory Rellas.

Drizly dropped the case in April 2019, and the company moved forward with its plans for Lantern. Neither Nick nor Cory Rellas could be reached for comment for this story.

Robinson said there are “no more issues” regarding that lawsuit, but “it gives you an idea of how much time we’ve been working on this.”

Nearly a third of Massachusetts’ medical marijuana dispensaries — 18 of the 61 operating stores — offer marijuana delivery services to patients, according to a spokeswoman for the state Cannabis Control Commission. Lantern launched its beta website in February, partnering with Revolutionary Clinics, which has dispensaries in Cambridge and Somerville, and Lantern has plans to partner with other dispensaries across the state.

The commission confirmed that Lantern, which is considered a “third-party technology platform provider” and does not need a state license, has partnered with multiple licensed dispensaries.

Recreational marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts have been temporarily closed since March, when Governor Charlie Baker ordered nonessential businesses to shutter because of the outbreak. Medical dispensaries were deemed “essential” and allowed to remain.

The Cannabis Control Commission has encouraged these dispensaries to keep their employees and patients safe through social distancing and enhanced cleaning procedures. The dispensaries are also allowed to offer curbside pickups.

But for many of the state’s nearly 70,000 medical marijuana customers, some of whom have compromised immune systems and are particularly susceptible to the coronavirus, delivery is the safest option. Mahoney said Lantern hopes to give people an accessible way to get the products they need.

“For now, given that we’re servicing medical cannabis patients, I’d like people to see us as a way to help them meet social-distancing goals; for people who have conditions that make their health compromised, it really gives them the opportunity not to have to leave their homes,” she said.

Mahoney said the company hopes to expand to adult-use markets, in Massachusetts and other states. Delivery services are not yet available for recreational marijuana in Massachusetts, but the license applications are expected to be available this month.

“I would hope that we could be seen as a service that can help you access a category in a way that is respectful and legal and comfortable and is without stigma and can just provide access to people that want it,” Mahoney said.