An illegal cannabis delivery start-up in the UK is generating millions of pounds in revenue less than a year after it was created, according to its founder.
Dispenseroo, which unlike other online drug markets operates on the open web, has attracted thousands of customers in recent months through guerilla advertising campaigns and word-of-mouth.
The unorthodox approach of shunning the dark web means the site is easily found through popular search engines like Google and DuckDuckGo, allowing it to grow 10-fold in recent months.
The founder, who goes by the name ‘S’, told The Independent that he had never sold drugs before starting Dispenseroo, and only created the service out of frustration with “archaic” cannabis laws in the UK.
“There is a huge difference between hard drugs and weed,” he said. “There is a lot of misinformation and negative images to those that are ill-informed. But many of our customers use cannabis for medical reasons and to treat complex illnesses like depression.”
S refused to say exactly how much the site is currently making due to security concerns, but said the site was shipping thousands of orders each week, suggesting that monthly revenue has surpassed £1 million.
Deliveries come in vacuum sealed bags to hide the smell and are delivered through traditional postal services like Royal Mail. Dispenseroo customers that The Independent spoke to described the service as convenient, though slightly overpriced compared to street dealers.
Not only does it operate on the open web, it offers many of the same services as legitimate businesses. There are next-day delivery options, live-chat customer support – with the same Monday to Friday operating hours as other retailers – as well as regular giveaways and promotions.
Dispenseroo claims to want to be “as revolutionary as the food delivery service” it takes its inspiration from. But Deliveroo has launched legal action against the start-up in a battle S describes as a “David versus Goliath” contest.
A Deliveroo spokesperson told The Independent that a complaint has been lodged with Dispenseroo’s website registrar and the World Intellectual Property Organisation, citing the “obvious and substantive mimicking” of its brand.
S said that Dispenseroo sees “our fight with Deliveroo is just another hurdle we must overcome”. But the company also announced on its website that it would be rebranding to “Dispenseree” in future.
Dispenseroo is also being investigated by Transport for London after an unauthorised advertising stunt saw ads for the site posted on the London Underground.
TfL said in a statement that it took the issue of flyposting “extremely seriously” and all adverts have since been removed.
Dispenseroo is planning to take its advertising “to the next level” in 2023, according to S, while also advocating for more favourable cannabis laws.
“I never expected it to grow this quickly,” he said. “I’d never sold drugs ever in my life before Dispenseroo was created… I am also a very normal person, regardless of my choice of profession.
“All I am trying to show is that a platform can exist to sell weed in a clean and safe manner. If the archaic laws in the UK were reformed we would potentially be a fully legal, tax generating business that could help repair economies like the one we live in.”