Ontario keeps weed delivery and pickup as COVID-19 closures ease

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Some Ontarians can now order regulated cannabis to their front doors as quickly as takeout. 

Dutchie, an Oregon-based weed delivery service, launched curbside pickup and delivery services in Canada’s most populated province Wednesday. 

The Ontario Cannabis Store, the provincially-run online retailer, already offered delivery through a courier service and Canada Post, but these options would take up to three to 10 days, respectively. Canada Post also temporarily stopped delivering cannabis to people’s front doors, so anyone ordering through them needs to put on pants and walk to their closest post office to collect their purchase. 

In April, as cannabis retailers were ordered to close to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario introduced a temporary measure to allow for curbside pickup and delivery options for private retailers.

Retailers could offer these services so long as the province was in a state of emergency, the AGCO said. 

Dutchie partnered with 33 dispensaries in Toronto, and offers delivery from 16 of them. 

“As businesses begin to reopen, customers still want safer alternatives to how they buy and collect products, and Dutchie’s solutions are catered to meet these critical needs,” Dutchie CEO Ross Lipson said in a statement

Regulated delivery services are relatively new in Ontario, despite dozens of unregulated offering speedy and discreet delivery on Weedmaps. Most even accept credit card payments. 

Quebec is also set to offer same-day delivery by July.

Jean-François Bergeron, Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC) president, told the Montreal Gazette Thursday that the provincial retailer will try same-day delivery first in Montreal, and then roll out across the rest of the province over the next six months. The SQDC currently offers home delivery within three days for a $5 fee.

Bergeron said this service will help the province battle the unregulated market.

Cannabis delivery isn’t as easy as pizza delivery 

But offering cannabis delivery isn’t as easy as hiring a pizza delivery driver. 

In Ontario, only a retail licence holder or one of their direct employees can deliver cannabis. That means for third-party delivery, like with Dutchie, a delivery driver would work like a taxi service.

“If the authorization holder or employee is securely in possession of the cannabis at all times, the authorization holder or employee can be transported to a delivery location by a person who is not the authorization holder or employee,” the AGCO’s website says. 

An employee or licence holder delivering cannabis also still needs to be certified by CannSell, the province’s mandatory cannabis retail certification. 

So far the province appears to be allowing what it once called a “temporary” delivery service to continue even as pandemic-related closures are lifted. 

“Retail cannabis stores can now open, as well as offer curbside pickup or delivery,” Raymond Kahnert, a spokesperson for the AGCO, said in an email. Store operators are expected to enforce physical distancing measures as well as any other government health orders, he added. 

Delivery companies will also have to follow the province’s Registrar’s Standards for Cannabis Retail Stores, Kahnert said. These guidelines ban advertising that could appeal to minors, or encourage people to drive high, among other things. 

“It is up to each operator to determine if they wish to offer delivery and how that will impact their business model,” he said.

Online sales jump 650 per cent 

Eight Tokyo Smoke locations, which are wholly-owned subsidiaries of Canopy Growth Corp. (TSX: WEED), have partnered with Dutchie to take advantage of the evolving delivery regulations. 

“COVID-19 has impacted our business in many ways, and Dutchie’s technology provided us a path to meet evolving regulations and consumer expectations to ensure the health and safety of our guests and teams during these unprecedented times,” Luke Doherty, Canopy’s director of retail solutions and infrastructure, said in a statement. “Dutchie provides us with an easy-to-use, sustainable long-term solution to offer new online and delivery purchasing options now and into the future.”

Since the COVID-19 outbreak hit North America, Dutchie’s online sales for Canada and the U.S. have jumped 650 per cent and the average order size has increased 32 per cent, the company said. Partnerships with over 1,100 dispensaries and 55,000 daily orders make Dutchie the largest online cannabis marketplace, the company said. 

Mugglehead reached out to nine unregulated cannabis delivery companies for comment but did not hear back by press time. 

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