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A Maryland returning citizen created a cannabis tech startup

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Growing up in a religious family, founder Colin Fraser wasn’t introduced to cannabis as a medical tool.

“I grew up in a Christian household where cannabis was considered the devil’s lettuce,” Fraser told “Back then, you did it as a recreational party drug and I really didn’t know much about the healing purposes of that actual plant.”

It wasn’t until later in life, after Fraser spent some time incarcerated, that he was inspired to do something to help people in prison and returning citizens. And through his mother dealing with Stage 4 cancer, he learned how hard it can be for those who need cannabis treatments the most to access them. In 2021, his motivation turned into Upling, a Rockville, Maryland-based cannabis delivery app that just won the latest DC Startup Week pitch competition.

While his mom was getting treated for cancer, Fraser said, he realized the difficulty patients go through to find the time or energy to go to a dispensary. The same is true of the elderly and veterans who get a lot of anxiety standing in lines due to PTSD. Available for Android and iOS for residents of Maryland and DC, Upling is the first Black-owned cannabis delivery app in Maryland. Partnering with dispensaries, users place an order through the app, a driver picks it up and it’s delivered to their home.

Users have to show ID or a medical card when downloading the app, ensuring that they can legally make the purchase. Upling also helps users apply for a medical card through the app, if they need one. The company currently delivers recreational cannabis to users in DC, as well as medical cannabis to applicable patients in Maryland.

In the app, dispensaries can upload prices, product menus, descriptions of products and strains and sales, which users can see right on the platform. Consumers, who can’t pull things off a shelf and read labels at a dispensary, can therefore take their time and find the product that works for them.

“With Upling, we have the description right there in front of you before you make your purchase, so you’re able to read it clean and clear so that you can make your purchase in accordance with the right decision for you,” Fraser said.

Upling currently has 10 drivers, many of whom are returning citizens, and created both a user app and a driver app — similar to Doordash or Lyft. The apps were built with Codinator on the front end and React Native on the back end. Orders are only available through the app at the moment, but Fraser plans to launch an updated version later this year with a web-ordering option.

In the coming years, Fraser wants to get a million downloads of the Upling app, as well as launch services and dispensary partnerships all up and down the East Coast. He also plans to do more work with senior living facilities, another group that has a hard time making it out to dispensaries.

But mostly, he hopes that Upling can give something key back to consumers.

“We just drop it right to your doorstep so you can finish playing ‘Call of Duty,’ you can finish up your homework, you can finish watchng that football game,” Fraser said. “We want to give time back to the consumer, to the patients.”


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