Private-sector Ontario cannabis retailers may once again offer home delivery and curbside pickup during a month-long pandemic lockdown in two heavily-populated regions, but it remains unclear how long the government will continue permitting those services.
“There’s a high possibility that this 28-day lockdown period will be extended… I think we’re certainly expecting to see an increasing (COVID-19) case number following the last hurrah this (past) weekend, where malls and retail and restaurants and bars were all packed,” said Alanna Sokic, a senior consultant with Global Public Affairs.
The new rules only apply to stores in regions that have been locked down, which currently includes the Toronto and Peel regions.
Retailers there may not let customers inside their stores, but they may offer delivery and curbside pickup between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m.
“I think in all likelihood, this current provision is likely to be temporary,” said Omar Yar Khan, national cannabis lead with Hill+Knowlton Strategies.
“I think what this represents is an opportunity to retailers to once again prove to the (Ontario) government that they can be responsible when given this facility, and I think that’s going to be key.”
Khan believes there’s a “decent chance” that the Ontario government might permanently allow curbside pickup and delivery for cannabis stores after making more progress working through a long backlog of store license applications.
Ontario’s growing number of bricks-and-mortar marijuana stores have taken a wild regulatory ride this year.
In early April, in the face of the pandemic, privately-owned retailers across the province got temporary permission to compete with the government-owned Ontario Cannabis Store’s delivery monopoly for the first time, as well as offering curbside pickup outside the walls of their stores.
The end date for that allowance was extended multiple times, but delivery and curbside pickup were finally forbidden once again in late July as the pandemic eased.
The new rules for curbside pickup and delivery, posted online Sunday by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), are largely similar to the previous regulations.
However, the new rules permit delivery payments to be completed at the time of the delivery, rather than being completed in advance as required by the previous rules.
On Monday morning, major retailer High Tide Inc. said its affected locations in the Toronto region were “fully and immediately compliant with the order” and were ready to offer curbside pickup and delivery services in short order.