Ontario dispensaries in lockdown may now offer curbside pickup

Published Nov 30, 2020 12:00 p.m. ET
iStock / Kelly Johnson

Over these last few weeks, some provinces in Canada have been struggling with a rising number of COVID-19 cases. Pushing hospitals towards a dangerous area that threatens the possibility of cancellation of elective surgeries, to reduce capacity in ICU's, and free up more space for victims of the virus who will need immediate treatment. It's a scenario that has health professionals and residents teetering on the edge of their seats, awaiting the news of a cure or vaccine that could make it all go away.

Ontario is one of the hardest-hit provinces. After the release of new predictive modelling that showed a trajectory far exceeding our hospitals' capacity limits, the government made the difficult decision to shut things down. However, this time, with a targeted precision meant to slow the spread in the worst regions with colour-coded zones. Much of the country remains in the green zone, with minimal precautions and public health measures, but hotspots like Toronto and Peel have been ordered to lockdown.

The first lockdown

During the first lockdown, the Ontario government first decided to close dispensaries. Thousands of other businesses deemed non-essential to slow the transmission of COVID-19 by reducing people's close contact wherever possible. Still, it didn't take long to see a reversal of that decision. Within 24 hours of announcing the closure of Ontario dispensaries, the provincial government altered the rules.

The last-minute changes allowed all pot shops to do something that they'd been fighting for since long before the pandemic, the freedom to deliver products to consumers via curbside picking and delivery. Emergency orders kept these temporary measures in place for several months. Still, as many other retail outlets were allowed to re-open to the public, and public health measures were relaxed, the special permission was quickly revoked.

This lockdown

On Monday, November 23rd, all non-essential businesses located in municipalities within the grey zone, the absolute worst on the colour-coded scale, must close their doors to the public. Though in some areas, cannabis dispensaries have managed to avoid total lockdown restrictions after being deemed essential services, this time around, none of these stores will be allowed to welcome patrons through their doors.

The rules

The provincial government has openly recognized the need for cannabis dispensaries to stay open, so rather than forcing those located in red regions to shut down completely, they temporarily reinstated measures that allow for alternative methods of sale curbside pickup or front delivery. Still, it's not quite as simple as you might think to make that change because the rules surrounding how it's done are strict and limiting.

  • All cannabis dispensaries must comply with current laws that prohibit underage sales or improperly stored products.

  • Social distancing protocols much be in full effect.

  • Cannabis retailers must only sell items that are allowed in their store through these alternative means.

  • A maximum of 30 grams per purchase will stay in place.

  • Permitted hours of sale are from Monday to Sunday between 9 am and 11 pm.

  • Cannabis products must stay inside of their original packaging.

  • Purchases must be delivered to the consumer in a way that conceals the contents from minors.

  • Payment may be made at the time of order or upon pickup/delivery.

  • Locations offering curbside pickup must make the exchanges in areas that are clearly captured by surveillance cameras.

  • Certified individuals may only make deliveries through Cansell and
    either the owner or direct employee of a dispensary.

  • ID must be requested if the receiver may be under 25 years of age.

  • Dispensaries must take the names and addresses of customers who receive deliveries.

  • Deliveries may be made outside of grey zones, as long as the company delivering is located inside.

The possibilities

Most dispensary owners are pleased because an abrupt stop in business just as sales are finally picking up could be devastating. Many are using this as an opportunity to show the government that they can be trusted with these alternate sale methods. So far, not a single incident has occurred to prove the supposed risk cited for prohibiting delivery and curbside pickup, something that only the provincially owned OCS has the privilege of using to its advantage.

Both consumers and dispensary owners are hopeful that this oddly presented opportunity allows for a significant change in the legislation that governs cannabis sales in Ontario. Only time will tell for sure, but for the moment, and the foreseeable future, as the order is likely to be extended, pot shops in the hardest-hit regions will be able to continue to service customers in the safest ways possible.

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