One of the biggest criticisms of Canada’s legalization of cannabis is that its cumbersome rules and limited retail options can’t compete with the black market.
What would help? Allowing cannabis home deliveries from retailers to continue after the pandemic.
It would also vastly improve the monopolized delivery system that existed before COVID-19 loosened some distribution regulations. For example, prior to the pandemic, the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) was incapable of doing same-day delivery via Canada Post. When the OCS did attempt to offer same-day delivery by contracting out a third party service, the provincial online retailer could only offer it to select areas, and soon discontinued that option altogether due to high demand.
The temporary measure allowing curbside pick-up and home deliveries by retailers is a no-brainer, but as with any government policy, the devil is in the details. Ontario’s is still a far-from-perfect system.
For one, there’s a provision that the delivery person must be an employee of the retailer. This is an unnecessary restriction that significantly limits scaling up. Retailers aren’t equipped with the capital nor the expertise to operate a fleet of vehicles. This is especially true as demand rises. They should be able to contract this out just like any other business can.
Secondly, the Ford government should allow third-party services to be used by licensed retailers, without the need for a licence. All Ontario has to do is follow Manitoba’s lead, which allows this. Making this change has the consumer benefit of allowing tech service companies to enter the market, giving legal retailers a leg up on the black market.
Eliminating the employee provision and allowing non-licensed tech companies to serve storefronts expands the options retailers have for getting products to customers. They could completely outsource their delivery through a third party with a cannabis delivery license, or they could work with other delivery apps, like restaurants do.
The province could require those non-licensed drivers to have their CannSell certificate, which is similar to Smart Serve for alcohol. CannSell costs $64.99 and would provide drivers the expertise to spot impairment and protect access from minors.
For the roll-out, the province could make this type of delivery legal tomorrow, and give drivers a 30-day grace period to complete their CannSell. When the province announced that restaurants could deliver alcohol with food orders, they did exactly that, giving food delivery drivers a month to get their Smart Serve Certificate.
Making cannabis delivery permanent rather than temporary would be a huge step forward for the legal market in Ontario. It would significantly benefit retailers. But more importantly, it would benefit consumers by expanding and enhancing their options.