Information Bulletin: Temporary delivery and curb-side pick-up by authorized cannabis retail stores and burden reduction measures during the COVID-19 pandemic
Cannabis retailers across Ontario welcome today's emergency order by the Ontario government allowing for temporary curbside pickup and direct delivery services to be made available to consumers so long as licensed cannabis storefronts remain closed due to the COVID-19 state of emergency. The move comes after a coalition of concerned retailers was organized by COVA Software and Leafly to ensure the continued viability of Ontario's legal cannabis businesses.
Previous emergency orders had already allowed businesses associated with the sale of beverage alcohol to offer similar services. Equitable treatment for licensed cannabis retailers will help responsible business owners protect against the encroachment of their market share from the illicit market while ensuring safe and effective physical distancing to protect both employees and consumers.
Ontario Extends Business Closures – Cannabis Impacts
Today, following the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the Ontario government has announced that it is reducing the list of businesses classified as essential and ordering more workplaces to close, including licensed cannabis retailers. Licensed cannabis producers appear to remain exempt from mandatory shutdown. As usual, businesses should consult legal counsel to ensure they are compliant with the order which can be found here.
Impacts on Licensed Retailers
Based on the language in today’s order, and conversations with government representatives this afternoon, it appears as though all licensed cannabis retailers will be required to shut down operations as of 11:59 p.m. Saturday, April 4, 2020. This includes all (click-and-collect) pickup services.
The order lists specific sectors that can continue to offer “curb side pick-up or delivery”. Cannabis is not listed as one of the sectors. From our discussions with government today it appears as though cannabis was not included in the list of sectors eligible for curbside pickup because such a move would require a regulatory change under the Cannabis License Act.
The preamble to today’s announcement also states that the order:
“Does not preclude the provision of work and services by entities not on this list either online, by telephone or by mail/delivery.”
Again, enabling private sector direct delivery of cannabis will require regulatory change. Officials are exploring the government’s appetite for a temporary expansion of retail cannabis delivery to the private sector.
Government officials have committed to remain in close contact through the course of this weekend and next week as they explore remedial action to support licensed cannabis retailers including potential regulatory change to enable curbside pickup and private delivery. Hill+Knowlton will continue our discussions with government as they look at the possibility of these two regulatory changes over the coming days.
Licensed Cannabis Producers
It appears licensed producers are protected from closure as today’s order exempts "agriculture and food production". This is defined as:
- Businesses that produce food and beverages, and agricultural products including plants, including by farming, harvesting, aquaculture, hunting and fishing.
- Businesses that process, manufacture or distribute food, beverages, crops, agricultural products, animal products and by-products.
- Businesses that support the food or agricultural products supply chains and the health and safety of food, animals and plants.
For more information, please contact:
National Cannabis Sector Lead
Within minutes of sending out the request to all our Ontario retailer contacts, my inbox was flooded with recommendations and ideas (despite the fact that I sent the email a few hours before midnight). The following items below have been presented to the AGCO, with changes already taking place. Thank you AGCO, and thank you Ontario cannabis retailers for your recommendations as we collectively adapt and survive in our industry.
As of last week all pre-inspection activities now done remotely over FaceTime and grouped into one inspection versus two.
On Site Inspections
On hold until pandemic passes.
Allowing Ability to Leave Doors Open
Inspectors have been asked to use discretion and to work collaboratively with licensees. The sense is that aggressive enforcement is on hold.
AGCO to automatically extend licenses for 3 months
AGCO will be collaborative and accommodating on other reporting requirements
Inventory of all reporting requirements and an official communication on changes should be forthcoming soon.
Compliance officials directed to be accommodating
Criminal Background Checks
Until further notice new hires will be allowed pending background checks
Federal cannabis act currently prohibits self serve.
Needs amendment to Cannabis Licensing Act. TBD.
Government not AGCO decision.
AGCO won’t stand in the way. Bars and restaurants may be allowed to deliver alcohol. TBD.
Want to learn more about incorporating responsible retail into your operations amidst COVID-19?
While cannabis sales surge amid the COVID-19 outbreak, consumers are not only stockpiling cannabis but changing the way they shop too. With a shift to online ordering to limit human contact, cannabis retailers need to rethink how they can continue to serve customers and deliver cannabis to people who need it the most. Join us for an educational webinar to learn more.