Why weed delivery should be part of Canada's "new normal" post COVID-19

Published May 29, 2020 09:00 a.m. ET
iStock / dvulikaia

The Canadian cannabis industry got off to a slow start in 2018, as restrictions, regulations, and strict guidelines for licenses seemed to plague savvy business hopefuls who wanted in on some of the sweet green action. Since then, we’ve been through a lot, and the sudden surfacing of the coronavirus epidemic did nothing but make matters worse.

Though some people are still under the impression that the cannabis industry has been lucky so far, with many business owners who were granted permission to continue with serving the public, some of the changes that they’ve been forced to implement go against the laws that we had in place prior to COVID-19. One of these costly adjustments is something that ganja-friendly business owners want to keep around long after the emergency orders are finally lifted, and that’s marijuana delivery services.

Weed delivery in Canada

To say that it is illegal to offer marijuana delivery in Canada wouldn’t be entirely true, as many provinces are in charge of online dispensaries that will ship directly to the consumer for a price. One good example of this is OCS, an online portal intended to provide Ontarians with easy access to cannabis from the comfort of their homes, but the majority of small ganja business owners are unable to offer this enticing service in the way that consumers are used to.

Marijuana delivery could help the legal market

Black market, aka legacy dealers, which is what cannabis consumers call illicit sellers of pot products, has nearly always offered weed delivery to customers. Though this move may have once been one that was made out of necessity to keep a low profile during a time where any kind of cannabis was still highly illegal and taboo, over time, it has transformed into a luxury that many interested customers don’t want to live without.

Unfortunately, without this direct link to any potential consumers, legal dispensaries have very little chance to compete against lower-cost products sold by black market stores. One good example of this is Weedmaps, which is an online platform that connects illicit vendors with eager customers who want marijuana delivery.

This popular connection spot boasts high traffic, with millions of users every day, but Canadian legal dispensaries would risk losing their license if they chose to do any more than post their location online, which is causing big problems, and getting in the way of much-needed sales. For a very long time, dispensary owners have wondered what it’d be like to join the ranks of their competitors, and now that they’ve gotten a taste of it, they are begging the government to reconsider its stance on the topic.

Why are Canadian dispensaries offering weed delivery now?

COVID-19, a highly contagious respiratory virus didn’t take long to make its way all around the world, and once it was found to have invaded Canada, the government announced that drastic actions would be necessary to slow the spread and reduce the number of possible deaths, while experts everywhere desperately race to search for a cure.

Though Canada, like the US, experienced shutdowns at both the federal and provincial levels, the individual provinces controlled the specific rules that each business had to abide by, and one of them that seemed consistent across the board was to shut down all non-essential businesses aside from those that offered some kind of necessity such as food, or materials for major home repairs.

Anyone else who wished to continue with their business was forced to offer delivery or curbside pickup, and since dispensaries were deemed to be essential, a topic that is still highly debated, they were granted temporary permissions to serve customers from the safety of their vehicle in the parking lot, or right to their door. This forced many cannabis retailers to come up with a website, online menu, and an organized team that was ready to take and fulfill weed delivery orders.

Why we need to see change

For many cannabis retail stores, this has been an eye-opening experience, that showed them what they’ve been missing out on this entire time, and now that some regions are choosing to re-open, and emergency orders are slowly being scaled back, they want to see this exceptional and easy option remain. Without any adjustments to our current laws, dispensaries will eventually be forced to revert to business as it once was.

Before the emergency orders are lifted, consumers, business owners, and advocates are calling for immediate action from the federal and provincial governments to keep these new rules in play for the long run, and they aren’t the only ones. Restaurants who’ve experienced a significant drop in sales have also been allowed to ignore old standards by serving beer, liquor, and wine to customers with their meals that are ordered to go, and after having to rely on this new way to make money, no one wants to give it up.

A new normal

We might be trying to return to some sense of normalcy, as the number of reported COVID-19 cases continues to decline, thanks to our diligence with public health measures such as social distancing, but the reality is that people everywhere will need to adjust to a new normal moving forward because there is just no way to stop this thing. Until we have a treatment or preventative measures in place, there is no way for the world to go back to the way we once knew it.

It’s a sad realization for sure, but it’s one that adds to the importance of decisions in regard to how businesses, including those who are involved in cannabis, can conduct themselves going forward. Most dispensaries have experienced a significant drop in sales, which is believed to be due to a combination of consumers losing paychecks, and the fact that they are simply afraid to buy something that could be viewed as unnecessary.

Weed delivery is the only thing that’s keeping them going right now, and it might be the only thing to save them in the coming months, as the fear and anxiety over human interaction and potential risk linger. While it’s important to recognize that most dispensaries are excited to get back to work, as in-person visits make up a large percentage of their sales and profit, they could really use the extra boost from the addition of marijuana delivery.

After several months of doing it already, it seems senseless to reverse one of the few things within the Canadian cannabis industry that has finally evolved toward more inviting levels for consumers, as this one small change could mean the difference between success and failure for many of our small dispensaries. It could also help to soothe the concerns of consumers who may be more at risk of contracting COVID-19 or other transmittable illnesses, and that alone should be reason enough to keep it going as part of our new normal.

Ontarians can now legally order weed delivery

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