OCS fears the impacts of COVID-19 lockdowns on legal weed

Published Jan 11, 2021 02:00 p.m. ET
iStock / Chansom Pantip

2020 has been an awful year for most business owners, but the legal cannabis industry made some good headway against the black market, driving consumers towards safer, regulated products. Unfortunately, OCS doesn’t think that the progress is going to stick due to the return of COVID-19 lockdowns that are impacting the entire province.

A marginal success

On Thursday, December 17th, the Ontario Cannabis Store claimed that between July and September of 2020, the legal market supplied a far larger portion of cannabis consumers than the year prior, with a 36% hold of recreational sales. This number is up quite a bit from the 25% that was reported in 2019, and the shift is largely attributed to the leaps and bounds that OCS and others in the legal industry have managed to make in regard to the overall price of pot products, resulting in more affordable options for Ontarians.

OCS recognizes the fact that there is still plenty more to do before they’ll be able to convince a larger number of consumers to make the switch to legal weed, but at this point, they’re worried about losing the progress they’ve already made rather than innovation. Unfortunately, the whole world is at a standstill due to COVID-19, which is precisely why some experts are predicting that customers will ultimately return to the black market during this trying time.

COVID-19 locks the province down a second time

For months the province has taken various measures in hopes of curving the spread of COVID-19 but despite incredible support and action taken by residents to limit contact with other people, the numbers soared, threatened to stretch the limits of our ICU capacity past the point of interfering with life-saving surgeries and procedures. This is exactly the type of scenario that we’ve been trying to avoid, and in response, the provincial government decided to put the whole region under lockdown.

On December 26th at 12:01 am all non-essential businesses were forced to cease in-person operations, schools are shuttered, and nothing will open again for at least 28 days. Of course, people can still make orders online and shop through impacted businesses via curbside pickup or delivery, but a pause button has been hit on the province once again, and this time, OCS isn’t expecting a flood of record sales that we experienced during the first lockdown.

Why this might impact OCS sales

As access to legal products has been moved to online and over the phone orders only, consumers will eventually drift towards safer and more convenient options. Most legal dispensaries have had to close due to public health orders, but the unlicensed are more overwhelmed than ever. Good quality, convenience, and price are the three top priorities reported by consumers themselves, and when legitimate cannabis companies are forced to limit their services, sales will likely suffer as a result.

Why we should support legal weed now more than ever

Businesses of all sorts are hurting right now, but the cannabis industry is the only one that is so new and fresh, which means that those who are in the game are functioning on minimal revenue while paying off huge loans that were necessary to get started. For these companies, a small hit in sales could mean life or death for the whole business, which could also impact employees. It’s a terrible ripple effect that no one wants to see, and that is especially true if you’re still cheering on the legal industry.

You don’t have to be willing to support the Ontario Cannabis Store specifically, as that’s just one supplier of pot products in the province, but if you want our access and market to survive this apocalypse, then we’ll need to support them with your money, even if it is a little bit less convenient to do so.

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