Ontario dispensary owners in lockdown ask the province to reopen

Published Dec 11, 2020 12:00 p.m. ET
iStock / Ridofranz

Businesses of all sorts have been adversely impacted by the rolling lockdown restrictions across the province. Still, as some regions hit record numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospital beds are quickly reaching capacity, further action has been taken to decrease the illness's spread. Just like before, most businesses in grey zones are being asked to close their doors to the public, but should a small-time cannabis dispensary be forced to face such strict rules?

Lockdown orders

The public health order requiring a lockdown in the most highly impacted regions came into effect just last week, and it required all non-essential businesses to close up shop. Of course, all have been permitted to serve customers through other means, such as delivery or curbside pickup, and dispensaries are no exception to that. Still, some argue that this move will be devastating to both consumers and cannabis businesses at a time when they need support the most.

The trouble with closing pot shops

Shuttering access to a cannabis dispensary might not seem like a big deal, especially when it's been seemingly replaced by a second option that is safer for all parties involved, but the reality is that this lockdown will have a significant effect on pot businesses that are barely scraping by as it is, as well as consumers who might not benefit from curbside pickup or delivery.

Some consumers living outside of delivery zones do not drive. This is often a requirement for contactless curbside pickup or simply cannot make informed decisions without their budtender's help. These are the ones who are going to suffer the most, as the lockdown will only create another barrier in the way of safe and affordable access to cannabis.

Desperate times call for desperate measures

Dispensary workers and owners call on the provincial government to adjust the current orders to allow pot shops to serve customers in-store and in-person with appropriate health protocols such as mask-wearing and sanitization in place. The argument being that the average cannabis dispensary boasts plenty of room for social distancing while serving consumers because they aren't hectic places, but that's not all.

A double-edged sword

Cannabis dispensary owners claim that weed is unfairly discriminated against, pointing towards the still active in-person sales through alcohol vendors such as the LCBO. Alcohol sales like cannabis were deemed essential during this crazy time, but only one is being given the option to keep their doors open. How is it fair one substance can be sold in-store while the next must be handled and shuffled through other means of delivery?

When you consider the fact that alcohol vendors tend to be far busier than cannabis dispensaries, it's hard to determine how this decision was ever made in the first place, as it seems to lack any logic to back it up. That's why dispensary owners and advocates are calling on the provincial government to reconsider the orders, but in the meantime, anyone who is found to go against them, no matter how ridiculous they may be, risk fines and charges.

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