Opening a legal cannabis delivery company in southern California seems like a natural enough thing to do. The demand for on-call cannabis in the sunny land of young dreamers and strivers is notable and consistent, after all. And for customers, the convenience of shopping for a wide range of brands, ordering a package of cannabis digitally and then having it transported to their front door within a few hours makes the concept behind Amuse—the LA-based, recreational-cannabis company—especially attractive.
And yet, there are some headaches that come along with the excitement and anticipation of blazing up. Marijuana has traditionally brought some degree of risk to its sellers and users. Laws remain on the books in many states against distributing or possessing it, in part because of the criminal elements that have historically controlled the underground market and a worry that the underaged may use the drug.
Even as 16 states have made cannabis legal to possess and sell in recent years, they have set high regulatory standards for the dispensaries and emerging cannabis-delivery companies that make up the $24-billion-per-year national legal cannabis industry. Central to those regulations is a requirement that companies know who they are dealing with. They must prove that a customer is verifiably them and that they are 21 or older.
Beyond regulations, companies like Amuse need to consider the safety of their employees, many of whom carry considerable amounts of cash and product as they make their rounds. Ongoing concerns with security need to be baked into the business.
Amuse aims to become the Amazon or Uber of cannabis delivery. It takes orders for a variety of products, everything from edibles to sexual wellness products to vape pens. But the bulk of its business is smokable cannabis. To make sure that it travels under a veil of safety is paramount.
When the company was formed early last year, its first order of business was to build out an e-commerce stack so its customers could safely make online orders. Shoppers share their location, shop the Amuse.com site and create a profile. Then, they must prove their identity before placing an order. Creating a platform flexible enough for customers to enter with confidence, one that offered an experience smooth enough that it wouldn’t chase people off, was a major goal for the then-startup.
As Amuse assembled its technology, company leaders realized they would need to embed it with measures that would protect its staff, particularly its delivery drivers. Not long after it began taking orders, Amuse tapped the Berbix verification system as the key security ingredient in its platform.
Berbix’s technology gave Amuse the ability to instantly verify a customer’s identity. This is because Berbix compares a person’s ID with a photo they take with their mobile device. In most instances, a would-be customer is accepted. When the system, which uses algorithms based on artificial intelligence and facial-recognition software, can’t confirm a match between ID and selfie, it rejects the customer.
That level of security can keep drivers safe. In the first two weeks of operation, before Berbix was used to cover all products on the Amuse platform, the company faced three security incidents. Since the expansion of Berbix to include all of the channels that the company serves, however, such incidents have ceased.
“Our drivers are often carrying product or cash worth thousands of dollars,” said George Durzi, a co-founder who also serves as Amuse’s Chief Technology Officer. “Protecting them is essential. We take this very seriously. A lot of what we did with our platform was DIY. But once we made the call to Berbix, it was a slam dunk as to what our security solution should be.”
Implementation was a breeze, he adds: “The team there was extremely knowledgeable. We could tell we were dealing with great technologists.”
After customers confirm their identity with Berbix when ordering, Amuse drivers will also ask to check delivery customers’ ID cards to ensure they are dealing with the right person. “Berbix does the work. There’s confidence that there’s a real person on the other end of the online transaction, and we supplement that with a two-factor verification process,” Durzi said.
Not every prospective customer online can pass muster. Some make errors when applying. A few bad actors try to gain entry to the Amuse site by using fake IDs. Berbix will find those actors by zeroing in on the ID’s machine-readable zone to make sure it is properly formatted, and rejecting it if a fake ID is detected. Berbix also gives companies the power to customize how they respond to rejections, allowing Amuse to do a manual review. Through this process, Amuse leaders have learned to have confidence in the system and implicitly trust the determinations Berbix makes.
“A rejection from Berbix isn’t something that we override,” said Durzi. “I’m not aware of a single instance when a Berbix rejection was wrong.”
In addition to serving as a first guard against fraud and theft, Berbix has been a key partner in Amuse’s growth. The cannabis company’s first year of operations went smoothly, even gangbusters. It has grown from four employees at its January 2020 opening to 250 and has expanded to serve three major metro areas in California, with plans for more by the end of 2021.
Berbix’s ID verification is a tool that can help e-commerce companies grow their revenue while minimizing risk, Durzi said. Its speed and accuracy are a complement to expansion. And because Berbix ID checks are done almost instantly, they keep the rate of “drop-offs”—people who have grown impatient or become stymied while going through tech verification steps during sign-up—very low. At Amuse, that rate is under 10 percent.
As Amuse looks to grow beyond its southern California market, it will continue to look to Berbix for help, Durzi said. The system’s consistent performance and availability make it easier to plan out a future marked by steady growth.
“Berbix is something I don’t have to think about,” Durzi said. “That’s probably the highest compliment I could give a service provider. It’s always there, and it’s always working.”