Cannabis

Ontario’s cannabis curbside pick-up and delivery options to end with emergency measures

“It is completely unacceptable that the province is making the cannabis market less consumer friendly,” says David Clement, North American affairs manager for the Consumer Choice Center

Photo: 
ake1150sb/Getty Images

Ontario cannabis retailers have had to be flexible through a series of evolving regulations through the COVID-19 pandemic.

When emergency measures were implemented, some were delighted that cannabis was deemed an essential service and retailers could continue operating. In April, cannabis was briefly dropped from the list of essentials — only to be re-added, with more flexibility for physically distanced transactions, like curbside pickup and delivery. Services like Leafly and Dutchie partnered with retailers to help facilitate purchases and distribution, while others made a go of it on their own with custom-built solutions.

But now, curbside and delivery will no longer be an option for Ontario’s private retailers once emergency measures are no longer in place, reports BNN Bloomberg.

“It is completely unacceptable that the province is making the cannabis market less consumer friendly,” said David Clement, North American affairs manager for the Consumer Choice Center, in a statement. “Banning curbside pick-up and delivery options ultimately makes the legal market less attractive, which only serves to embolden the illegal market, who have long offered these services.”

While it hasn’t been proven that legal cannabis deliveries impede the illicit market, retailers who have invested in implementing new technologies and welcome any and all ways to move product, are similarly unhappy.

“To take away that opportunity for customers that want to use a delivery or a curbside (pickup) – which we’re still seeing as a pretty significant piece of our business – to take that away and force people to now have to interact and go into stores, when realistically there’s no reason for it … doesn’t make a lot of sense,” James Jesty, president of Friendly Stranger Holdings Corp., told MJBiz Daily.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, masks are now mandatory indoors in public spaces in many, but not all, parts of the province. Delivery will continue to be available through the Ontario Cannabis Store, the province’s ecommerce site and wholesale supplier to private retailers.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

The CCC Testifies In British Columbia

On Friday, June 12th the Consumer Choice Center’s David Clement was invited to present to the British Columbia’s Select Standing Committee on Finance and Services. In their annual review in the budgetary process, the province’s finance committee invites, and hears from experts, on various policies that impact the provincial budget.

As part of the consultation, David represented the CCC specifically on two key points:

  1. Urging the BC government to repeal it’s 20% vape tax
  2. Asking that the BC government remove the Provincial Sales Tax from medical cannabis.

Below is a copy of David’s remarks:

Hello members of the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Services. I’d like to first off thank you for the ability to present here today, and to represent the voice of consumers in British Columbia. I’m David Clement, and I act as the North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center.

As a representative of a consumer advocacy group, I appear here today to ask that the Government of BC repeal its 20% vape tax, and remove PST from medical cannabis purchases.

For the vape tax, we urge the government to repeal the vape tax, for both cannabis products and nicotine, for the following reasons:

  1. Harm reduction: We know, from mountains of evidence, from credible public health agencies like Public Health England, that vape products are significantly less dangerous when compared to products that involve combustion. Because vape products are reduced risk products, we feel that the additional tax is counter-productive from a harm reduction perspective. Having additional taxation on cannabis and nicotine vape products, wrongly, signals to consumers that these products are more harmful than the alternatives, when the opposite is true. Taxation should be applied based on the continuum of risk, and this tax runs in the opposite direction.
  2. Black market alternatives: Specifically for cannabis, we know that the illegal market has long provided consumers with vaping products. Unfortunately, we also know that these black market products often contain dangerous thickening agents like Vitamin E Acetate. Vitamin e acetate is now known to be one of the main causes of vaping related illnesses in North America, which are not present in legal products, nor is it allowed to be in legal products. The 20% vape tax makes legal, regulated, and safe cannabis vapes considerably more expensive when compared to black market alternatives, which incentives consumers to purchase dangerous and unsafe products. It is important to remember that this 20% cannabis vape tax is added on top of the following taxes and fees that inflate the price of legal products:
    1. The federal excise tax
    2. The federal portion of the sales tax
    3. Application screening fees
    4. Security clearance fees
    5. Annual regulatory fee

The cannabis vape tax should be repealed because it simply piles on to the overtaxation of legal cannabis in this country, and only benefits illegal dealers, who’s products now become more attractive in terms of price. In order for the legal market to compete with the illegal market, it has to be able to offer products at comparable price points. The vape tax makes that nearly impossible.

Beyond the vape tax, we also strongly urge that the Province of BC remove the PST from medical cannabis products. The PST should be removed, firstly, because it would be the consistent thing to do. Other prescription medications in BC do not have the PST applied to them, thus removing PST would simply give parity to medical cannabis. Beyond that, it is incredibly unfair to have additional taxes for medical cannabis patients. In many instances patients are on fixed income, or even disability. It is disproportionate and punitive to add additional taxation to the medicine these patients have been prescribed by their doctors. It was a mistake for the federal government to apply a sales tax to medical cannabis, but luckily the province can somewhat right that wrong. 

Thank you for hearing my concerns, and I look forward to your questions. 


The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Johannesburg, Brasilia, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Liberar entrega de maconha no Canadá pós-pandemia ajudará a combater o comércio ilegal

Tornar a entrega de Cannabis permanente e não temporária seria um grande passo em frente para o mercado jurídico.

Uma das maiores críticas à legalização canadense da Cannabis é que suas regras complicadas e opções limitadas de varejo não podem competir com o mercado clandestino. O que ajudaria? Permitir que as entregas de Cannabis aos varejistas continuem após a pandemia.

Também melhoraria bastante o sistema de entrega monopolizado que existia antes do Covid-19 afrouxar alguns regulamentos de distribuição. Por exemplo, antes da pandemia, a Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) era incapaz de fazer a entrega no mesmo dia via Canada Post . Quando o OCS tentou oferecer a entrega no mesmo dia contratando um serviço de terceiros, o varejista on-line provincial só poderia oferecê-lo para selecionar áreas e logo interrompeu a opção por causa da alta demanda.

A medida temporária que permite o recolhimento na calçada e a entrega em domicílio pelos varejistas não é perfeita e como em qualquer política do governo, o percalço está nos detalhes.

Por um lado, há uma disposição de que o entregador deve ser um funcionário do varejista. Essa é uma restrição desnecessária que limita significativamente a expansão. Os varejistas não estão equipados com capital nem conhecimento para operar uma frota de veículos. Isto se destaca quando a demanda aumenta. Eles devem ser capazes de contratar esse serviço como qualquer outra empresa.

Em segundo lugar, o governo Ford deve permitir que serviços de terceiros sejam usados por revendedores licenciados, sem a necessidade de uma licença para essa função. Tudo o que Ontário precisa fazer é seguir o exemplo de Manitoba, que permite isso. Fazer essa alteração oferecerá benefício ao consumidor, permitindo que empresas de serviços de tecnologia entrem no mercado, dando aos varejistas legais uma vantagem sobre o mercado ilegal.

Eliminar a necessidade de funcionários e permitir que empresas de tecnologia não licenciadas atendam às lojas expande as opções que os varejistas têm para levar produtos aos clientes. Eles poderiam terceirizar completamente sua entrega por meio de terceiros com uma licença de entrega de maconha ou trabalhar com outros aplicativos de entrega, como os restaurantes.

A província pode exigir que os motoristas não licenciados tenham seu certificado CannSell, que é semelhante ao Smart Serve para álcool. O CannSell custa US$ 64,99 e forneceria aos motoristas o conhecimento necessário para detectar deficiências e proteger o acesso a menores.

Para a implantação, a província poderá legalizar esse tipo de entrega amanhã e conceder aos motoristas um período de carência de 30 dias para concluir o CannSell. Quando a província anunciou que os restaurantes podiam entregar álcool com pedidos de comida, eles fizeram exatamente isso, dando aos motoristas de entrega de comida um mês para obter o Certificado de Serviço Inteligente.

Tornar a entrega de Cannabis permanente e não temporária seria um grande passo em frente para o mercado jurídico em Ontário. Isso beneficiaria significativamente os varejistas. Mais importante, porém, beneficiaria os consumidores ao expandir e aprimorar suas opções.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Allowing cannabis delivery is a good start. But too much weed is still being sold on the illicit market

Even with looser regulations, consumer demands still aren’t being met, writes David Clement, North American affairs manager at the Consumer Choice Center

The state, which legalized recreational cannabis in 2016, has imposed a stay-at-home order to prevent the virus’ spread, and many people fear going out because of the infection risk.

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 discontinuedthat 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.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

COVID-19: Retailers scrambling to respond to a surge in e-commerce orders during pandemic

Retailers have been left either struggling with a surge in demand for online ordering and delivery or ruing their lack of a web shop

Cannabis retailers in Ontario exhaled a collective sigh of relief earlier this week when the provincial government threw them a lifeline by finally — albeit temporarily — allowing them to offer online sales after shutting down their physical storefronts last weekend.

Previously, only the government-owned Ontario Cannabis Store was allowed to sell cannabis online, a “silly and misguided” policy, according to the Consumer Choice Centre, a consumer advocacy group. Now, for the time being, cannabis stores can offer delivery and curbside pickup.

Curbside pickup also seems to be the mechanism of choice for other retailers, including Canadian Tire, whose website urges customers to phone in orders after its brick-and-mortar presence, too, lost its “essential” business designation on April 5.

Taking orders by phone and getting customers to pick them up them up may seem a strange way to operate more than than two decades into the e-commerce revolution, but the coronavirus crisis has many retailers either struggling with a surge in demand for online ordering and delivery or ruing their lack of a web shop since most people are trying to stay home and practice social distancing measures as much as possible.

Almost three in 10 people are shopping for things online that they normally would have bought in-store, according to a survey of more than 30,000 Canadians by Chicago-based market research firm Numerator.

Even the biggest, most competent e-commerce players such as Amazon.com Inc. have been forced to make adjustments.

“They’re so backed up from an increase in demand, if you’re buying non-essential products, they’re not shipping that out to you for, like, a month,” said Ygal Arounian, an equity analyst at Wedbush Securities covering e-commerce companies.

Many smaller retailers, of course, still don’t have a web shop, often due to either the cost or logistics of setting one up, a shortcoming the coronavirus-related downturn has only emphasized.

An Amazon worker picks up a package while making deliveries during the coronavirus outbreak in California.

To that end, the City of Toronto and the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas is offering a program called Digital Main Street to help businesses develop their online footprint through one-on-one consultations.

One midtown Toronto business improvement association has created a $15,000 Digital Support Fund. The Yonge + St. Clair BIA will hand out $500 on a first-come, first-serve basis to up to 30 members to help them transition or grow an existing online presence.

But how the coronavirus-related downturn exactly affects various retailers will differ a lot, Arounian said, primarily based on what they’re selling.

For example, even though the conventional wisdom is that e-commerce activity is at an all-time high, Ottawa-based Shopify Inc. had to issue a message to investors that the global pandemic had thrown off its financial forecasts.

Arounian said Shopify’s business in the short term is likely suffering because the company serves a lot of independent merchants selling lifestyle products — makeup, clothing and watches — things that are not top priorities right now.

Investment house Piper Sandler’s biannual Taking Stock with Teens survey conducted in the United States in February and March found that spending on cosmetics had fallen 26 per cent from spring 2019, marking a 10-year survey low.

“In the near term, I think that the consumer focus has shifted completely to non-discretionary products,” Arounian said. “In the near term, we’re likely in a recession now. Ten million people in the U.S. filed for unemployment in the last two weeks, and that’s going to put some pressure on non-discretionary spend also.”

That hasn’t stopped people from shopping at Indigo Books & Music Inc., which has long had a substantial e-commerce presence, though most of its business still came from in-store purchases. Its online sales are up more than 300 per cent since its physical stores closed.

“We provide the things that will lower the stress level at home,” chief executive Heather Reisman. “I think after food, we (sell) the things that people would value at this moment. We do have educational and creative things for kids. We do have lots of things related to wellness and well-being. We are related to reading.”

She said the company has been able to easily absorb the increased online business since volumes during the Christmas period are 10 times what they are now.

“We always have a very significant surge, so we have capacity,” she said.

Reisman said the biggest constraint is taking steps to limit volume, because it’s necessary to keep workers healthy.

“We have to meter it, because we have implemented extreme social distancing in our fulfilment centres,” she said.

But not every company is handling the massive shift in consumer behaviour without hiccups.

For example, customers visiting Canadian Tire’s website on Monday were greeted with the famous red triangle and green leaf logo at the top of the page, and a plain text message that advised customers that should avoid using the site between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., because those were the busiest times.

“Due to these unprecedented times, we are experiencing a higher than normal volume of traffic to our website. We want you to know we are here for you, and to assure you that we’re working hard to bring you the essentials you need.”

If there was a simple way to order merchandise on the site, it wasn’t immediately apparent. Instead, the company suggested customers place their orders by phone and offered a Google link to find the closest locations.

By Tuesday, the company still wasn’t accepting online orders, but the page was updated with a drop-down menu that allows customers to find store phone numbers without going to Google.

Canadian Tire did not respond to requests for comment from the Financial Post, but industry watchers have long held that the retailer is behind its peers in terms of e-commerce abilities (though Sport Chek and Mark’s, its sister banners under the Canadian Tire Corp. Ltd. umbrella, are more robust).

Curbside pickup at a Canadian Tire in Sudbury, Ont.
Curbside pickup at a Canadian Tire in Sudbury, Ont. John Lappa/Sudbury Star/Postmedia Network

In some cases, companies that are heavily focused on physical-world interactions need to change on the fly. Jessie Wilkin, founder and partner at Toronto-based Pilot Coffee, said before the pandemic, the coffee maker and chain’s business was almost entirely focused on wholesale coffee sales and its eight cafes in the city.

“March 16, we closed all our retail locations. We were unsure at that point how long they would be closed for, and we immediately started seeing an increase in sales from our online orders,” she said.

“From March 16, we’ve had almost a 300 per cent increase in online orders, and probably about a 350 per cent increase in online customers, and about 10 per cent increase in our online subscriptions.”

Wilkin said Pilot has been forced to change its workflow to respond to the flood of smaller consumer orders, holding roasted beans in inventory instead of doing roast-to-order wholesale batches.

The company is also looking at expanding its delivery capabilities, because they’re having problems dealing with Canada Post and FedEx with all the disruption.

Wilkin is looking forward to reopening Pilot’s cafes once it’s safe, but she said the pandemic will likely change the business significantly.

“We’re sort of seeing an expansion into an untapped market”

Jessie Wilkin

“I believe that our customers are going to come back to our cafes, and it’s just going to take some time,” she said. “But I think as well, consumers that hadn’t previously ordered our products online or ever made coffee at home are now feeling more empowered to do so. We’re sort of seeing an expansion into an untapped market.”

Running Room Canada Inc. founder and chief executive John Stanton is thinking in a similar way. Before the pandemic, his chain of stores heavily relied on in-person shoe sales and organized running groups.

Now, he is encouraging workers and customers alike to embrace innovation by, for example, hosting virtual running events where people use smartphone apps to record solo weekend runs. The company is also trying to offer “gait analysis” of customers through FaceTime to help pick the right shoes for their stride, something they normally do in-store.

Stanton said he doesn’t know what the post-pandemic running scene will be like — will people still want to gather in big groups for event races? — but he’s confident his business can endure, because people want what it has to offer.

“I get that mental release as well as a physical release, and I don’t have that interconnection with people at a time when it’s probably not a good idea to be around a big group.” Stanton said. “I think you’re probably going to see a return to that solitary run.”

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Emergency order for cannabis puts Waterloo’s Bud & Sally back in business

Province reverses decision on weed retailers, allowing them to stay in business to continue fight against black market

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People will soon be able to pickup cannabis curbside from local licensed retailers like Bud & Sally in uptown Waterloo.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has reversed its previous decision to ban cannabis retailers from operating, meaning that individual stores can now provide curbside pickup and delivery options.

“To continue the fight against the illegal cannabis market and support cannabis retail store operators and legal recreational cannabis consumers, the Government of Ontario has issued an Emergency Order to temporarily allow authorized cannabis retail stores to offer delivery and curbside pickup,” the AGCO stated in a media release on Tuesday.

“These changes are effective immediately and will last for the duration of the period of declared provincial emergency, with the possibility of extension if the government’s Emergency Order on business closures is extended.”

On March 17, Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency in Ontario, because of COVID-19, and ordered the closure of non-essential businesses. Authorized cannabis retail stores were initially deemed essential businesses. On April 3, a revised list was issued, further reducing the number of essential businesses, and cannabis retail stores were among those that had been ordered to close as of April 4.

John Radostits, who just opened Waterloo’s Bud & Sally in mid-March, had questioned what appeared to be a double standard, as delivery of alcohol with takeout food had been OK’d by the province and the online Ontario Cannabis Store continued to provide delivery of cannabis.

“Yes good news from the AGCO,” he said Wednesday, in an email. “We are currently working on our plan to open with the curbside pickup ASAP.

“All customers will have to visit our website www.budandsally.com and order from our full catalogue and pay in advance for all cannabis and accessories. The next step will be to come to the storefront sidewalk (32 King St. S) and we will bring the order out to them. We are currently updating our website and should be ready within the next day or so.”

Radostits said he’ll also be looking at the logistics of adding a delivery option, moving forward.

David Clement, Toronto-based North American affairs manager for the Consumer Choice Center (CCC), said the only issue with the ACGO’s announcement is that the allowance is temporary.

“Prohibiting retailers from offering delivery was always a silly and misguided policy,” said Clement.

“Once everything has returned to normal, our hope is that retailers will continue to be allowed to offer delivery options for their consumers. Allowing for retailers to deliver will help the legal market compete with the black market, which is something that everyone should be on board with.”

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Ontario cuts essential workplaces list to limit COVID-19 spread

The Ontario government ordered more workplaces closed — including bricks-and-mortar cannabis shops and some industrial construction sites — in a stepped up campaign to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

“We can’t stop now,” Premier Doug Ford said Friday. “There’s 1,600 people out there who need us to do everything we can in the next 30 days to help save them.”

Public health COVID-19 models show that many people could die by the end of the month unless more stringent social distancing measures are taken.

A new list of businesses were ordered to arrange for staff to work remotely or shutter their operations by 11:59 p.m. Saturday.

“All industrial construction except critical industrial projects will stop,” Ford said. “Only necessary infrastructure projects like hospitals and transporation will continue.”

While no new residential construction projects will be allowed to break ground, those already under construction will continue.

Ford said the vast majority of Ontario workers have now been told to stay home.

“We’ve had to shut down most of our economy,” he said.

Businesses that remain open include those that supply essential services, supermarkets, restaurants for take-out or delivery, alcohol stores like the LCBO, pharmacies, gas stations, funeral services, vets for urgent care only, hotels and cheque cashing services.

Insurance, telecommunications, transportation and maintenance services can also continue.

Stores that sell hardware, vehicle parts, pet and animal supplies, office goods and computer products will only be allowed to provide alternative methods of sale such as curb side pick-up or delivery.

David Clement, of the Consumer Choice Center (CCC), said it was a shame the Ford government is shutting down cannabis retailers.

“This move does nothing but embolden the black market, who will obviously continue to meet consumer demand,” he said in a statement.

The online option for buying from the Ontario Cannabis Store remains available.

Ford said he’s acting on the advice of his Chief Medical Officer of Health in shutting down more sectors of the economy.

However, he said people will still need to access their medication and food.

“As soon as you take that food off the shelves and close down retail you get … anarchy,” Ford said. “You get civil disobedience — people are going to do what they have to do to feed their family — and we don’t want to go to that point.”

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Medical homegrowers are supplying the illicit market. Here’s why more policing isn’t the answer

The Consumer Choice Center’s David Clement explains how easing cannabis regulations could help personal growers enter the legal space

In less than two years, cannabis has gone from an illegal product to an essential service during a pandemic. But despite reports of increased sales as consumers stockpile for COVID-19 lockdowns, Canada’s cannabis market is struggling.

We kicked off this year with declining stock prices for licensed cultviators,
stagnant sales and rumours of a pending insolvency crisis for many mediumsized companies. The current coronavirus crisis could make this trend worse as global markets plummet.

There are a lot of reasons why Canada’s cannabis industry stumbled out of
the gate. Poor retail access, specifically Ontario; over-regulation and high tax rates. And establishing brand awareness in a market that prevents even the most modest forms of advertising and branding is challenging.

But there’s an additional factor at play: The program for growing medical
cannabis for personal use is undermining the legal market and fueling the
illicit market. Far more cannabis is being grown than medical cannabis consumers require — and some of that cannabis is being sold on the illicit
market. I’d like to propose a few potential solutions.

Breaking down the numbers

As a result of several Supreme Court rulings, medical cannabis consumers
have the constitutional right to grow their own medicine and can apply to do so through Health Canada.

The latest figures show that there are 28,869 Canadians who have their determined by Health Canada. Medical consumers are generally authorized
to consume between five and 60 grams of cannabis per day.

We don’t have national data, but general trends can be extrapolated from
provincial data. Via an access to information request, the average permit holder in Manitoba is authorized to consume 18 g/day, which entitles them to grow 88 indoor plants per year.

Quebec’s data is nearly double that of Manitoba: A 30 g/day average entitles
a medical consumer to grow 146 indoor cannabis plants each year. If we take provincial figures and forecast them on a national scale, permit
holders are growing a staggering amount of cannabis. Each indoor plant can produce between 250-600 grams per harvest, of which there are usually
three per year. One outdoor plant, with only one harvest, can yield as much
as 1.8 kg/year. A conservative estimate? The average Manitoba permit
holder could grow up to 66,000 grams (or 66 kg) of cannabis annually.

Rather than trying to arrest their way out of the problem, the government should focus on transitioning permit holder growers into the legal market

Applying that math to all Canadian permit holders would mean that in 2019, they grew an estimated 1.9 million kilograms of cannabis — approximately 158,000 kg — per month. Compare that to the legal recreational industry’s output: In August of 2019, the total amount of all legal recreational cannabis available for sale was 61,000 kg. Medical permit growers in Canada could be growing 2.5 times more cannabis than is legally available for sale in the recreational market. If Quebec’s figures are more representative of the national average, these growers would be growing 4.5 times more cannabis than is legally available.

Permit holders are growing more than then they need for personal
consumption. At 18 grams per day, a permit holder would need 6,570 grams
annually, while being permitted to produce more than 66,000 grams a year.
So where does most of the excess cannabis end up? The illicit market: York
Region Police’s recent bust showed that criminal networks were abusing the Health Canada permit process. The same thing happened
recently in Alberta, where a biker gang bust showed that illicit cannabis was grown by a Health Canada permit holder.

Either organized crime is taking advantage of Health Canada’s process, or
permit holders are enticed to sell their excess cannabis to criminals so it can be resold. This is part of the reason why the legal recreational market hasn’t truly materialized.

Increased policing isn’t the answer

But the government shouldn’t target legitimate permit holders. Doing so
would violate their constitutional rights, and would be exceptionally cruel
given how marginalized this group has historically been. Rather than trying
to arrest their way out of the problem, the government should focus on
transitioning permit holder growers into the legal market. A first step for this transition would be to restructure the regulations for growing cannabis.

Right now, licensed producers (LPs) have to comply with nearly pharmagrade regulations. Instead, they should more closely resemble food grade production standards. This would give medical permit-holders a realistic shot at earning a micro-cultivator licence and entering the legal market. It would also benefit existing producers by reducing compliance costs.

There are a few onerous barriers permit holders have to jump over that could be eased to help transition them into the legal space: The security clearance process is one, but we could also be easing facility regulations, reducing licensing fees, reducing the batch test minimum of 100 g/batch, or fast tracking the licensing and renovation amendment timelines. This would clear a path for these growers to enter the legal market and incentivize them away from the illicit market.

To say Canada’s legalization process thus far has been messy would be an
understatement. At almost every turn the government has over-regulated
the legal market, which is what keeps the illicit market thriving. Easing these heavy-handed regulations could bring more growers into the legal sphere and make for a more consumer-friendly market all around.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

BC should allow online recreational cannabis sales to protect consumers and staff

British Columbians should be allowed the same socially distant transaction options as other provinces

Despite reports of “click-and-collect” services coming to B.C. retail, a recent provincial policy directive still requires customers to go in-store to pay for and pick up their weed.

This new directive falls short of online sales and delivery options available in provinces including Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario.

Providing these options would allow B.C. residents, who currently face the country’s highest number of COVID-19 infections, to reduce non-essential physical transactions that have the potential to spread the disease.

Tuesday afternoon’s update from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry showed B.C. pulling ahead of Ontario for the first time with a total of 617 confirmed cases, compared to Ontario’s 572. For reference, the population of Ontario is nearly three times that of B.C.

International advocacy group the Consumer Choice Center, who recently called for all provinces to legalize same-day delivery, said such policies would have the added benefit of reducing illicit sales.

Currently, B.C.’s provincial wholesaler holds a monopoly on online recreational cannabis sales. “BC Cannabis Stores: the only place to shop non-medical cannabis online in BC,” reads a slogan on the homepage of its website.

Late Friday, British Columbia’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) authorized private cannabis retailers to offer non-medical cannabis product reservations online or by phone.

However, the guidance says that reserved products must be paid for and picked up in store.

The move comes after multiple calls from B.C. retailers for the province to allow for cannabis delivery and “click-and-collect” services that are offered in other Canadian provinces.

“It’s hard for us when we don’t have an option,” Muse Cannabis manager Frida Hallgren told Mugglehead in an interview last week. “At times like this it would have been very useful to have a delivery system.”

Unclear how product reservations support social distancing

The term click-and-collect is used to describe retail services where customers buy a product online and then come to collect it, either in-store or at the curbside.

The demand for brick-and-mortar alternatives has expanded rapidly as citizens have been asked, and now ordered, to practice social distancing measures in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

With its new expanded emergency powers, the City of Vancouver can now fine businesses up to $50,000 and individuals $1,000 for violating social distancing guidelines.

Muse Cannabis Granville Street Vancouver
Unlike other major provinces, B.C. consumers still need to pay for their weed in-store. Photo by Nick Laba

It’s unclear how the LCRB’s new policy would work to decrease potentially risky social interactions if customers have to meet staff in-store to buy cannabis products.

As its explanation, the branch said no policy direction on non-medical cannabis product reservations was provided previously.

“This policy change now allows licensees to offer reservations of non-medical cannabis products available in their store to customers via their website or by telephone,” it said. “Existing requirements for licensee websites remain and licensees are prohibited from selling non-medical cannabis products online or by telephone. However, licensees may continue online sales of cannabis accessories and gift cards.”

Mugglehead reached out to the B.C. Attorney General’s office on Monday morning about why online sales are not being allowed, and is waiting for comment.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Group calls on provinces to ‘immediately remove barriers’ to same-day weed delivery

Delivery would make life easier on Canadians during coronavirus outbreak while helping stave off black market.

The Consumer Choice Center (CCC) wants the rest of Canada’s provinces to join Saskatchewan and Manitoba in allowing the same-day delivery of cannabis.

Self-described champions of lifestyle freedom and innovation, the group noted that weed should not be excluded from the extensive list of everyday items consumers can have brought to their front door, especially in the time of COVID-19.

“Consumers can order household products, food and alcohol for same-day delivery,” said David Clement, North American affairs manager for the CCC. “It is silly to prohibit same-day cannabis delivery from licensed retailers,” Clement said.

“With the exception of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, cannabis consumers are left waiting days for Canada Post to deliver online orders. Provincial governments should immediately remove the legal barriers for same-day delivery from licensed retailers.”

After legalization, Saskatchewan and Manitoba quickly emerged as testing grounds for cannabis delivery services, thanks to their relatively liberal retail regimes, which allow private actors to operate online stores.

The result of those policies — which differ from rules in Ontario, Quebec, B.C. and Alberta, where online cannabis stores are controlled by the province — has been a flurry of cannabis start-ups, including Super Anytime Inc., Pineapple Express Delivery Inc. and Prairie Records that offer same-day delivery to recreational cannabis consumers.

The Ontario Cannabis Store has been slowly testing same-day delivery in the province, but it is currently only available to select postal codes in the Greater Toronto Area, Hamilton, Guelph and Waterloo.

But the time has come to integrate the service countrywide, Clement argued. “Allowing for same-day delivery will help cannabis consumers during the COVID-19 outbreak, but it will also help combat the black market in the long run,” he said.

“There are a variety of illegal online options for same-day delivery. Allowing for licensed retailers to compete will make the legal market more attractive, and could help consumers switch from the black market to the legal market,” he added.

The consumer advocacy group has been critical of government regulation of cannabis in the past, slamming package regulations as being “heavy-handed” and arguing that Canadian consumers have paid the price for the government’s inability to understand the drug.

Originally published here.

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