Virtual dispensary inspections are working out great in Canada

Published Jun 4, 2020 11:00 a.m. ET
iStock / ake1150sb

It’s almost as if time has stood still for many of us as we sit in the comfort of our homes and watch the insanity unfold from the safety of our phones and computers. The nearly worldwide lockdown has forced millions of people indoors to slow the spread of COVID-19, and along with them, thousands of businesses closed their doors under emergency orders. Our health experts are now saying that as we reopen the economy, special precautions must be taken, as much of the world is still under threat, which has led to a serious re-adjustment of how business is done in the cannabis industry.

The move for consumers to purchase cannabis online

Canada, though once viewed as a leader of the cannabis movement, has always remained strict in regard to regulations surrounding how every dispensary must function. ID proving a legal age is necessary and expected, but other stipulations such as the inability to offer delivery have frustrated dispensary owners across the country since the very beginning. This is one section of the market that was essentially handed to the black market by the federal government, but COVID-19 changed all that in an instant.

While most cannabis dispensaries in Canada were forced to close up shop, they were granted special emergency permissions to serve customers is unusual ways, through options like curbside pickup, parking lot orders, and front door service. This one small change was enough to keep most dispensary locations running, but the ones who still wanted to get in on the business were out of luck, until now.

Virtual dispensary inspections

When the restrictions came down in March, it was obvious that something was seriously wrong. The streets grew quieter, and people stayed in their homes, doing their best to wait out the worst of the virus. For many, this calm meant good things, as we’ve done our part by staying home as much as possible, but for others, this dreaded pause postponed business opportunities, and that is especially true within the cannabis industry.

At the time of the shutdown, there were thousands of applications for licensing to open cannabis dispensaries, and that backlog was already proving difficult to work through pre-pandemic, so adjustments were made to the process that could allow social distancing inspections to take place. Instead of taking any risk at all, the government decided that virtual inspections were the best way to help the cannabis industry to continue to grow, and now they’ve all moved online with great success.

What is a virtual dispensary inspection?

Cannabis dispensaries like food type establishments must forgo inspections prior to obtaining a license that is required to open, and this is typically to look at things like cleanliness, fire safety precautions, and other health and safety requirements like exits and fire extinguishers in case of an emergency. Luckily, these things don’t require an in-person meeting to check, which means that an inspector can get a virtual walk through of any dispensary that requires approval using a phone, tablet, or another filming type of device.

How long will it last?

With the cannabis industry struggling as it is to hold onto provisions from the COVID-19 pandemic emergency orders, it’s impossible to say with any certainty whether or not this new technologically friendly way of doing things will stick around for good. However, for now, it’s working to keep the market expanding, even if it is at a snail's pace, and that is an excellent thing for both consumers and big industry players who will both benefit from the new locations and improved access to legal cannabis for Canadians.

Some cannabis dispensaries want COVID19 provisions to continue

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