Tempe-based startup Supurb is similar to on-demand delivery services like Uber and Postmates, except instead of summoning a driver for a sandwich or a ride to the airport, Supurb drivers deliver medical cannabis.
The company is the first of its kind in Arizona. It’s safe, secure, discreet and convenient — and completely legal, according to the app’s co-founder and CEO, Jonathan Ghiz.
Ghiz and his business partner, Justin Schudel, conceived the idea nearly two years ago. The app has been operating in Beta since August. It started with only one dispensary and a handful of patients. Supurb now partners with five dispensaries and has nearly 5,000 active users. The company plans to announce four more dispensary partners within the next two weeks, expanding to Tucson next month and to the entire state within six months. Eventually they’d also like to expand to other states, Ghiz says. They already launched the second generation of the Supurb platform in April, which included a redesign of the entire interface.
“It’s been modified to be more responsive, to create more of a unique experience for every aspect of the business, whether you’re a dispensary employee, driver or a patient,” Ghiz says.
Arizona residents with a valid medical marijuana patient card can register, get verified and order their medicine in a matter of minutes. To get verified, users must answer a series of questions and upload photos of their medical card and state-issued ID. The system then cross-references that information with the Arizona Health Department to ensure the user is a patient in good standing with the state to receive medical products.
“The state’s guidelines are pretty stringent so we had to build our technology knowing what we could and couldn’t do,” Ghiz says. “When we sat down and developed this business, we analyzed the state’s laws for not only dispensaries, but cultivations and what the state put out for deliveries as well to form a system that could operate under the guidelines of all three.”
Ghiz and Schudel wanted to get involved with the medical marijuana industry, but figured they were too late in the game to open a dispensary. The next thing that came to mind was a delivery service.
“There was no one doing delivery in an efficient manner; there were a lot of illegal operations underway and thriving that were actually hurting the dispensary model,” Ghiz says. “We took what we saw in the on-demand food delivery market and applied that same concept to cannabis delivery.”
That concept works like this: Once a user is verified, the app geolocates them to the closest dispensary partner. They then have access to a menu of high-resolution photos of all the strains that dispensary offers. It’s just like an on-demand food delivery app, but instead of a menu of pizza and pasta, they can browse a menu of indica and sativa.
Supurb’s marketing director, Dalyn Oakes, sums up the service’s mission simply: “Medical marijuana where you want it, when you want it. It’s like Uber or Lyft for weed.”
According to Ghiz, there’s a delivery fee only when a customer doesn’t purchase the minimum order within their range. Orders within five miles have a $30 minimum, while orders over 30 miles have a $200 minimum. The delivery charge can be 30 cents to $10 depending on where the customer is and how much they order. Supurb users also have the luxury of ordering after hours, so they don’t have to rush to a dispensary before it closes.
“The goal in mind is to be able to get it to a point where you spend $30 minimum and that’s it,” he says. “You can be anywhere and have it sent to you for as low as $30 in under 40 minutes.”
Ghiz claims the app follows a “pizza delivery mindset.”
“When they log in, they want their medical marijuana fast, affordable and convenient,” he explains. “They’re not necessarily going to care that much about where it comes from, they just want to get it now. This is what we accomplish.”
Carlos Alfaro, communications director for the company, says Supurb is revolutionizing the medical marijuana industry, enhancing accessibility, eradicating stigma and putting the power (and the product) directly in the hands of the consumer.
“What attracted me to the idea is that now, anybody that’s legally allowed to smoke and carry cannabis can have it, just by having a phone or a computer,” Alfaro says. “It puts all of the power into the individual, rather than businesses, and it marks a turn in the industry from businesses running everything to software like this.”
Ghiz says many medical marijuana patients are living under a shroud of stigma. There’s still a lot of work to be done to make it positive in the public eye.
“They feel a little uncomfortable or maybe not as safe walking into a cannabis dispensary,” Ghiz says. “There’s still a large stigma going on… We’re bringing medical cannabis into a better light.”
Supurb eliminates the underground delivery market, a place where weed isn’t coming from a trusted source. Supurb serves as the middle man, Ghiz says.
“We provide the software and technology to the dispensaries. The dispensaries hire the drivers and operate it as a separate division of their own brand, so we funnel all the patients through Supurb,” he says. “The drivers are all licensed through the Arizona Health Department; they all have a dispensary agent card. It’s much like being a real estate agent… you have to have a license to sell, transport and traffic cannabis.”
One of the biggest hurdles of this business model is inability of the customer to see or smell the product before they receive it. “That’s part of the disconnect that we have to overcome,” Ghiz says.
Oakes is responsible for coming up with creative ways to represent the product, which includes high-resolution photos and detailed descriptions.
“Creating eye-catching visuals allows us to do something that’s never been done before,” he says.
Supurb allows thousands of Arizona medical marijuana patients to order from local dispensaries without leaving the comfort of their own home or the places they frequent most, as long as it’s not public property. That means college campuses, libraries and churches are off limits.
Alfaro says college students are a big part of their business. On April 6, Arizona courts overturned the ban on medical marijuana on college campuses, leaving it up to universities to create their own rules. They can disallow it, but lawmakers can’t make it a crime, he says. Because there is still contention surrounding its decriminalization, Supurb will not deliver to any location on a college campus. If an order is sent while on a college campus, users will have to resubmit the order from a new location.
Supurb currently has eight employees, which includes a small team of developers and drivers. Ghiz says the business prides itself on providing jobs and generating income for the dispensaries they partner with.
“We go in and we provide business in a box to the dispensaries,” he continues. “A lot of them aren’t currently delivering but have the opportunity to do so, so they see us as an opportunity for a new means of expanding their market reach as well as creating a new source of generated income.”
Ghiz says the biggest challenge is the lack of education surrounding medical marijuana. Alfaro adds that many of their patients are working professionals.
“There’s people that smoke marijuana today that are doctors and attorneys,” he says. “Instead of drinking a beer after work or a cocktail with dinner, they prefer marijuana, and not only should that not be a crime, but it’s an industry worth cashing in on, on both the public side and the private side.”
Ghiz says being a pioneer in the legal marijuana delivery business is a perk, but patient satisfaction comes first: “Being the first to do it and be successful at doing it has been the greatest reward, as well as being able to see the faces on the patients that truly need the medicine.”