Ontario dispensaries granted permission to extend curbside pickup

Published Jul 27, 2020 09:00 a.m. ET
iStock / JHVEPhoto

Consumers right across Ontario have lavished in a unique service that many had only dreamt of throughout this pandemic, and they’ve grown accustomed to delivery and curbside pickup as the norm, but now that businesses are starting to re-open, some of the rules that were rolled out by the provincial government are being brought right back to what they were prior to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Wasn’t cannabis delivery and curbside pickup illegal?

Yes, as the provincial government governs the state of the industry and the regulations that all cannabis businesses must abide by, and they initially decided that the only entity that would be allowed to offer delivery to customers is OCS. OCS is entirely online, and they don’t offer curbside delivery, but they have been mailing eager customers their packages since the very beginning of legalization.

This isn’t exactly an unexpected decision, as alcohol is also very rarely allowed to be served in this manner in Ontario and forcing exchanges to happen indoors reduces exposure and risk to anyone who might be in the area. However, not all Ontarians are happy with the 3-5 business day wait that OCS offers and many companies have called the obvious selective favoritism detrimental to the spirit of healthy competition.

When it all changed

Dispensaries all over Ontario were indurated with large crowds of panicked shoppers once the news of COVID-19 spreading began to make headlines. The Canadian government waited until just after March break to announce that the country would be locking down, and one by one, businesses closed as they were deemed as non-essential services.

Though most would agree that dispensaries are essential for some, they were slated for closure, but the mass panic and outcry made it clear that Ontarians wouldn’t fair a pandemic well without access to their newly acquired legal substance of choice, and in response, the provincial government backtracked on their decision to force dispensaries to close and announced their new ability to serve customers through curbside pickup and delivery.

The original expiry date

The original expiry date for the emergency was only a couple weeks away from the very first day that it was implemented, but the allowance for dispensaries to remain open was set to end at the beginning of July. The hope was that by then, businesses would be back to normal, which should have meant that customers could be safely shopping in person, but as the expiry of the emergency order grew nearer, it became apparent that this wouldn’t be enough time.

The new order

Though they waited until the last possible minute to announce the adjustment, cannabis dispensaries have now been granted permission to continue with curbside pickup and delivery options until at the earliest July 29th. This tentative agreement will allow dispensaries to serve customers in-store, as the beginning of stage 3 takes hold, which means that they can open their doors to the public, but they will still be able to offer customers who don’t feel comfortable enough for in-person shopping, the option to pick up their cannabis or to have it delivered to their front door.

The future

Ontario cannabis dispensary owners have made it clear that they would prefer for this provision to continue, and the argument is made by comparing cannabis to alcohol which is widely served out in the open at licensed public events. Something that cannabis enthusiasts are not able to enjoy due to strict regulation that prohibits it. So far, it looks like these measures will remain temporarily, but the provincial government remains firm in their stance that it will end; It’s only a matter of deciding when that is currently up for debate.

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