Cannabis delivery services have grown expeditiously in recent years. During COVID-19, these delivery services offered safety and comfort for medical and recreational consumers alike. While many of the companies are legal and secure, there is no doubt that some companies claiming to be delivery services are operating illegally. Two women who ran such a company, Northern Herb, were recently sentenced after pleading guilty to several counts.
Massachusetts began the process of legalizing medical marijuana in 2012. The state became the first to legalize cannabis recreationally in 2016, though distribution for adult-use (AKA delivery services for recreational weed) is not legal. Without licensing, any company that makes cannabis deliveries is illegally distributing. Based upon that standing law, Massachusetts-based delivery company Northern Herb has been dissolved and the owner and office manager pled guilty to various charges for running such a business. Deana Martin and Tatiana Fridkes both received sentences for illegally operating Northern Herb.
Martin was sentenced to four years in prison for owning and managing Northern Herb and was also found guilty of money laundering and tax evasion. The U.S. Attorney’s Office had filed charges accusing Martin of failure to file taxes from May 2016 to July 2018. In the twenty-six months of operation, Northern Herb had a revenue of over $14 million.
Fridkes, the office manager, was charged with conspiring to distribute and was sentenced to time served. Northern Herb distributed over 100 kilograms of marijuana during its years of operation. Ms. Martin and Ms. Fridkes have been ordered to pay $82,000 in restitution and Martin alone has been ordered to pay an additional $528,146.
Northern Herb purported to be a medical marijuana delivery service. The U.S. Attorney found that drivers did not ask for medical cards nor did they ensure safe deliveries, often leaving cannabis in hallways or outside of doorways. While outwardly appearing to be above board, Northern Herb was not licensed for medical or recreational use in any state. All workers were paid in cash, no W2s or 1099s were ever filed with the Internal Revenue Service, and payroll taxes were never withheld. In essence, Northern Herb had never operated as a legal company while bringing in a substantial revenue flow and potentially endangering numerous clients who believed they were ordering from a legitimate, legal, and licensed delivery service.
This is not the first time a cannabis delivery service was operated outside of legal bounds, nor will it be the last. These and other illegal operations often bring in millions of dollars. Legalization has rapidly spread across the United States, bringing with it business and job opportunities. Cannabis delivery services go hand-in-hand with this growth, using the framework of legal companies mirroring those of illicit ones. But while many are opting to go the legal route, there are numerous extenuating circumstances that continue to drive the illegal market. As legalization continues, so will the crackdown on operations working outside the purview of the law. For Ms. Martin and Ms. Fridkes, the crackdown came after 26 months of operation. Consumers have safe and legal options to choose from and states are committed to ensuring those are the only companies in business.