The Ontario government has extended an emergency order temporarily allowing privately-owned cannabis stores to offer curbside pickup and home delivery.
The order has proved to be a short-term lifeline for Ontario’s adult-use stores, which were initially included on the government’s list of essential services as the province grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic, before they were removed from the list and ordered to close last month.
Outside Ontario, most privately-owned cannabis stores in Canada are barred from offering home delivery, hampering their ability to serve customers and compete with illicit sellers.
Ontario’s emergency order, which had been set to expire today, was extended to May 31.
Licensed cannabis stores in the province may continue, for the rest of the month:
- Offering curbside pickup seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
- Offering home cannabis deliveries seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
“While not the most ideal situation,” Badyr Valcarcel, director of retail operations for Shiny Bud, said in a statement to Marijuana Business Daily, “Ontario’s enabling of click and collect sales has allowed us to continue providing the community with the cannabis they need, while driving much-needed income to the store.”
George Smitherman, chair of industry group Cannabis Council of Canada, said click-and-collect and delivery are helpful from the perspective of businesses and consumers, but they can not replace a retailer’s ability to physically serve consumers in stores.
“As long as we’re operating with limited access, we risk driving clientele back to the other side,” he said in a phone interview.
“If conditions do come around, I would hope Ontario’s retail cannabis companies would be pressing their point and demonstrating they have super plans in place to open their stores in the new normal.”
Reports that online sales are “blowing up” do not paint a complete picture, he said.
“Higher online sales can’t possibly make up for what was happening in retail stores before the pandemic. It’s been busier, but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t replace the traffic that the retail stores were generating,” he said.
“Our competitors didn’t close down – that’s the reality of the challenge we’re facing. But everything has to be done in the context of the safety of the population, and no one is going to lose sight of that.”
— With a file from Solomon Israel.
Read the emergency order here.