Members of the illicit drug trade have been using Uber for years to clandestinely smuggle marijuana and other substances to their desired destination. The delivery method is, by all accounts, one of the safest ways to distribute black market goods without getting busted by the police. Notably, the company’s vehicle requirements exclude any cop-magnet cars with “cosmetic damage” and “missing pieces” from representing them on the streets. This means that most Ubers are relatively new and clean, so they are moderately inconspicuous in the grand scheme of highway travel.
As for Uber drivers, these people are usually oblivious that anything illegal is going down. They are mostly unknowing accomplices, who were simply summoned through the app to be a chauffeur for a brief amount of time. Most have absolutely no idea that their wheels are being used to transport illegal substances. So even if there is a pesky run-in with law enforcement, the driver is not likely to display any of the nervous tells that are common with motorists in-the-know about the pound of pot stashed in the backseat. But Uber is not a fail-safe. Passengers have been busted for transporting drugs in the past.
“Drug dealers will use whatever vehicle they can to get their drugs from point A to point B, so Uber or Lyft would surely be a part of that,” Sergeant Victor Fazio of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department told MotherBoard back in 2016. At the time, Fazio admitted that while it was an “interesting phenomenon” to use ride-sharing services to trafficking illegal substances, it was not a practice that had yet become widespread.
However, it is assumed that, over the years, Uber drivers have become privy to the concept of people using their vehicle as a means to transport drugs. Although most of them could care less if someone is carrying a small stash for personal use, some might be a little on edge to discover they are acting as a courier for small to medium-sized dope-slinging operations. In order to avoid being pegged as part to felonious activity, you had better believe that a driver would give up information on a passenger if push comes to shove. Uber has said in the past that it works with law enforcement when “presented a lawful request for information.” Basically, if the cops suspect someone of using Uber to transport illegal contraband, the company will cooperate.
But it seems that the popular transportation network is getting a bit overzealous with its anti-drug policies. The world on the street is that Uber drivers can now get a person blacklisted from the app even if they get into a vehicle smelling like marijuana. This has happened in at least one state where marijuana is legal, according to a report from Mashable.
Although most of us probably haven’t taken the time to read the fine print, Uber’s Community Guidelines are clear about prohibiting passengers traveling with “open containers of alcohol or drugs.” The policy does not specifically address cannabis; however, it is apparently wrapped up in the mix. It is a rule that may have gone mostly unnoticed had it not been for a passenger by the name of Mike Mulloy, based in Los Angeles, California and Boston, Massachusetts, catching heat in a recent message sent by the company. Mulloy received a digital communication from Uber over the weekend suggesting that one of their driver’s had narc’ed him out for holding illegal drugs.
“We’re reaching out because we have received a claim that you may have been in possession of an illegal substance on a recent trip,” Uber said. “We take these claims very seriously,” the company wrote, adding that “another claim of this nature could result in permanent account deactivation.”
Mulloy, who took to Twitter to chastise the company for the threat, says he did not bring any illegal substances into the vehicle. “I smoked a blunt before I got into your car,” he said.
Uber admits that its drivers have the freedom to report passengers for suspected drug possession. A spokesperson for the company told Mashable “we have a zero tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol for both riders and drivers. If a driver suspects a rider has drugs or alcohol, they can report it to us through in-app support.”
“For a first-time offense, we send a warning to the rider,” the spokesperson added. “Multiple reports of problematic behavior may result in a review of their account status.”
It is not clear whether the incident took place in California or Massachusetts. Mulloy has refused to elaborate.
Nevertheless, this has been a hot topic of discussion lately on RideGuru, which is revered as “the trusted resource, tool, and community for everyone engaged in rideshares, ride hails, taxis, and limos.” When presented with the question “have you ever ratted out a rider to Uber for smelling like weed?” almost all of the respondents said marijuana has never been an issue unless the passenger “does something” to them or their vehicles. But Uber drivers demand respect. Smoking pot in their personal vehicles without permission will almost always lead to a negative report. But most say they would never turn someone in for just catching a ride while reeking of reefer. Yet, it depends on how brutal the smell. If it is as pungent as “body odor,” it could still be a problem.
So, regardless of whether you are using Uber to shuttle an ounce of weed across town to a friend (or customer) or simply catching a ride home after a long night of getting smoked out with friends, it is probably wise to keep your cannabis-related connections to yourself. It has been our experience that most Uber drivers are cool — they are only interested in making money — but it only takes one to put your name on the radar.
Of course, there is very little that a large tip cannot remedy. Keep that in mind.
TELL US, have you ever ran into trouble with a rideshare due to marijuana?