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 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

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 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

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

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

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

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.

A Push for Smart Regulation of CBD

Encourage competition, safety, medical facts and eradication of the black market

ARLINGTON, Va. — Flashy display cases, provocative brand names and lists of health benefits have elevated cannabidiol (CBD), a nonintoxicating compound found in cannabis, to be one of the hottest product trends today.

Whether it be for health, pets or beauty care, the use cases of CBD are becoming mainstream. It’s not uncommon to hear stories of consumers using CBD to alleviate pain in their joints, reduce anxiety and improve sleep.

Retail Revolution

The revolution is already here, and it arrived in a fury. The only guardrails came with the legalization of industrial hemp in the 2018 Farm Bill. That law created a legal distinction between a relative of cannabis without THC (tetrahydrocannabinol)—commonly known as hemp—and THC cannabis, which remains classified as marijuana and is still illegal under the Controlled Substances Act.

That law was a huge boost for farmers, entrepreneurs and consumers in the CBD space. And while it answered many questions, it sparked many more that will take time and deliberation to resolve: Who tests the actual CBD content of these products? Where are these products sourced? Which benefits and health claims are legitimate?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been running to catch up. It has so far focused on bogus health claims made by producers. Meanwhile, the FDA still maintains that food products containing CBD are illegal, despite their widespread availability in stores in practically every state and no real method of enforcement.

In May 2019, the FDA invited scientists, entrepreneurs and consumers to participate in a public hearing. Following statements and presentations from dozens of attendees, including myself, the FDA remains uncertain of what consumers and c-store owners looking to try or sell CBD products need to do to comply with the law.

The FDA is awaiting further instructions from lawmakers in Congress, who are currently floating myriad proposals to deal with cannabis. The latest would classify CBD as a health supplement, exempting it from more stringent regulation and allowing broader distribution in food and drinks.

Core Issues

Apart from that, there are still many gaps to fill. Considering many store owners are currently selling these products, it’s important that both sellers and consumers are aware of the core issues that should be addressed by the FDA and regulators.

In that May hearing, my group, the Consumer Choice Center, presented the following suggestions to the FDA if it wishes to implement smart regulation of CBD. Smart regulation would encourage competition, safety, medical facts and eradication of the black market.

The suggestions are:

  • Develop clear labeling standards, including the percentage of CBD and THC.
  • Allow free advertising and branding.
  • Allow stated health claims and benefits.
  • Embrace harm reduction by allowing CBD products in food, drinks, oils and topical products that do not require combustion.

We hope the FDA takes these points seriously and that these principles are followed by the industry as well.

What should the CBD-curious c-store professional do if they want to dive into CBD products?

  • Maintain a high standard for the products they source.
  • Choose only products with clear labeling and reasonable health claims.
  • Read the included fact sheets and materials that come with orders from reputable CBD firms.
  • Use independent testing services to check the levels of CBD and other compounds.

Entrepreneurs and consumers can work together today to ensure a competitive market with safe, beneficial and exciting innovations that will provide value to everyone.

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

Level the cannabis ingesting field by legalizing consumption in commercial spaces

Basements and garages were once the only places you could consume cannabis in peace. But now, if the provincial consultation process advances the interests of consumers, millions of Ontario residents will be able to try some forms of the newly legal substance in licensed commercial settings, including bars, lounges and outdoor festivals. One caveat to this development is that the province will not revise the Smoke Free Ontario Act, so only ingesting cannabis products, not smoking them, will be considered for enclosed public spaces.

By significantly increasing consumer choice, moving forward with commercial consumption would be a big win for cannabis consumers in Ontario. This move would bring cannabis regulation closer to alcohol regulation, a big improvement over current “lock-and-key” cannabis rules. More importantly, this would elevate the legal market over the illegal market by giving consumers something the black market never could: a legal and controlled place to consume.

That said, the specifics of how Ontario regulates consumption are key. Edibles and beverages should be available in any restaurant, bar, or clubs currently licensed to sell alcohol, as well as in stand-alone establishments dedicated solely to cannabis consumption. Ready access to legal consuming space is what can ultimately make the legal market more attractive than the alternative. The black market has always had various forms of edible cannabis available for sale but it has never offered a controlled and legal place for users to ingest or consume it. By liberalizing where it allows cannabis consumption the Ontario government can empower the legal and regulated market at the expense of illicit trade.

There are those who say cannabis and alcohol shouldn’t be mixed, and such behaviour shouldn’t be encouraged by allowing their sale in the same places. It’s true: people shouldn’t mix cannabis and alcohol. But that doesn’t mean these products shouldn’t be made available alongside each other, subject to appropriate regulation. Provincial certification programs could train servers both in the risks of combining alcohol and cannabis and in how to avoid abuse where possible. We already trust certified servers to understand the harms of alcohol intoxication and to cut customers off when they are intoxicated. It is not unreasonable to believe they can help enforce responsible consumption of cannabis.

In addition to commercial consumption, the province is also considering a special occasions permit (SOP) to accommodate cannabis consumption at concerts and outdoor festivals, to be used either separately or alongside an alcohol SOP. This should be reasonably simple to implement. Festivals would be able to offer their adult attendees a wider range of products, thus benefiting both vendors and future customers. As to smoking or vaping cannabis, festivals would be well within their rights to allow this in roped-off or age-restricted areas or wherever they currently allow tobacco use. Edibles and beverages could be sold alongside alcohol so long as the servers have the proper certification.

How do municipalities fit in? Ontario made the huge mistake of giving local city councillors veto rights on cannabis retail within their city limits. A city or town that opts out of cannabis retail obviously doesn’t mean consumers in those cities and towns can’t buy cannabis. It just pushes them back into the illegal market, which is precisely what we want to avoid.

Ontario should not make the same mistake with consumption. If a restaurant, bar, club or lounge can meet the provincial licensing required to sell edibles and beverages, it should be free to do so without busybody city councillors intruding into their business.

Green-lighting commercial cannabis consumption is the right thing to do. But the province must get it right. Competitive and consumer-friendly policies for commercial consumption would give consumers greater choice and convenience and help put a dent in the still-prevalent black market.

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

Cannabis Conclave in Davos im Jahr 2020

Zum zweiten Mal in der Schweiz mit genauen Legalisierungsvorstellungen

2019 gab es eine Premiere auf dem Weltwirtschaftsforum in den Schweizer Gefilden um Davos. Menschen aus dem Cannabis-Business und Experten auf dem Gebiet luden zum geselligen Stelldichein ein und besprachen in exquisiter Atmosphäre die abgeschlossenen Entwicklungen und die Zukunft der Cannabis-Branche. Auch in diesem Jahr bot sich in Davos die Gelegenheit, mit den Geschäftemachern des speziellen Sektors und mit aufgeschlossenen Personen aus der Politik ins Gespräch zu kommen, um die Weichen für eine bessere Zukunft zu stellen. Dass es endlich an der Zeit für eine zeitgemäße Anpassung in der Drogen- und Gesundheitspolitik ist, bewies die Cannabis Conclave in Davos im Jahr 2020 erneut.

Auch im Jahr 2020 brachte die Cannabis Conclave verschiedene Führungskräfte der Cannabisindustrie, einige globale Investoren sowie politische Entscheidungsträger und internationale Medien zusammen, um die weltweite Legalisierungsdebatte – sowohl für Freizeit- als auch für medizinisches Cannabis – angemessen voranzutreiben und die wachsende Legitimität und Reife der legalen Cannabisindustrie hervorzuheben. Am 23. Januar fand das besondere Event statt, das unter anderem von dem North American Affairs Manager des Consumer Choice Center David Clement initiiert wurde. Im Gespräch mit dem Medical Cannabis Network gab Clement einige Details bekannt, die ihn zu seinem Engagement führten, welches er vor, während und nach den Tagen des Weltwirtschaftsforums benötigte und benötigen wird. „Sowohl auf internationaler als auch auf nationaler Ebene ist das Hauptproblem in der Thematik, dass die Gesetzgebung nicht auf Verbraucher oder Patienten ausgerichtet ist. Legalisierungsgesetze, ob im medizinischen Bereich oder bezüglich des Freizeitgebrauches, sollten immer den Zugang und die Erschwinglichkeit in den Vordergrund stellen. Leider ist dies in vielen Bereichen nicht der Fall. Es ist an der Zeit, dass internationale Gremien erkennen, dass der Krieg gegen Drogen ein Misserfolg ist, insbesondere wenn es um Cannabis geht. Ich denke, dass alle Länder in der Lage sein sollten, Cannabisvorschriften entsprechend ihren spezifischen Bedürfnissen zu erlassen. Trotzdem möchte ich alle Regierungen nachdrücklich ermutigen, den Krieg gegen Drogen aufzugeben und Cannabis zu legalisieren.“ Weiter führt David Clement an, dass es mehr Länder geben müsste, die sich dem Beispiel Kanadas annehmen und so zu einem internationalen Umschwung führen. „Die Legitimität der Branche kann dadurch gefestigt werden, dass weitere Länder die Legalisierung von Medizinalhanf und Freizeitgebrauch übernehmen. Kanada hat trotz seiner regulatorischen Fehler einen Kurs festgelegt, auf dem andere Länder diesem Beispiel folgen können. Wir sind zuversichtlich, dass in naher Zukunft ein Wendepunkt auf internationaler Ebene ansteht, wenn immer mehr Länder die Legalisierung übernehmen.“ Dass sich zumindest peu à peu etwas bewegt, ließ Clement dabei nicht unerwähnt. „Die großen Entwicklungen für Cannabis im Jahr 2020 werden neue Rechtsordnungen sein, die eine Legalisierung umfassen. Wir wissen, dass Luxemburg und Malta derzeit prüfen, wie ihr Legalisierungsprozess tatsächlich aussehen könnte. Ein großes Thema dieser beiden Länder ist die Frage, wie viel sie von Kanada lernen können. Wir hoffen beispielsweise, dass diese beiden Länder, obwohl sie die Legalisierung befürworten, eine Überregulierung von Cannabis vermeiden werden, wie sie in Kanada stattfand.“ Was er damit genau meint, führt der Affairs Manager des Consumer Choice Center auch an. „Nur durch patienten- und verbraucherfreundliche Vorschriften kann sichergestellt werden, dass die Legalisierung erfolgreich ist und der Schwarzmarkt verdrängt wird.“ Positiv wird David Clement auch dadurch gestimmt, dass die Welt nun mittlerweile ernsthaft zuhöre, wenn es um das Thema der Cannabislegalisierung geht – dies hätte ihm die Cannabis Conclave im Jahr 2020 in Davos bewiesen.

Der dort ebenfalls anwesende Stephen Murphy von Prohibition Partners sagte dazu in einem Interview mit Benzinga, dass es mit Cannabis erst jetzt vorangehe. Es fehlten derzeit noch die großen Marken auf dem Markt, sodass noch viel Platz für Teilnehmer übrig sei, die sich in dem vielversprechenden Geschäftsfeld versuchen wollen. Er betonte zudem, dass Cannabis zahlreiche Branchen abdeckt, darunter Getränke, Lebensmittel, Gesundheitswesen, Schönheitspflege, Wellness, Bauwesen, Textilien, Ingenieurwesen, Technologie, Tierpflege, Biokraftstoffe und sogar Bettwäsche. In den vergangenen drei Jahren, seitdem man seitens Prohibition Partners die Branche beobachte, habe dennoch bereits ein erstaunliches Wachstum stattgefunden, das nun weit über die damals fünf bis sechs existierenden Märkte reichen würde. Zudem gäbe es Hunderttausende von Menschen auf der ganzen Welt, die medizinisches Cannabis konsumierten, und man habe mittlerweile signifikante Beweise dafür, dass alleine diese Tatsache eine Umsetzung von neuen Gesetzen rechtfertige, sagte er. Man könne derzeit bestimmte Einstufungen benutzen, um den Zugang zu Cannabis in den unterschiedlichsten Ländern zu beschreiben. Es wäre daher eine sehr eingeschränkte und verzerrte Denkweise, wenn Menschen in Großbritannien verzweifelt an Cannabis zu medizinischen Zwecken gelangen wollten – dies aber nicht dürften, weil es von offizieller Stelle „nicht genug Daten“ gäbe – während in Israel und Kanada Personen damit schon lange behandelt werden. Immerhin habe man mittlerweile auch einen immer stärken Druck auf die unterschiedlichen Regulierungsbehörden feststellen können, welche allesamt eigene Gesetze, Richtlinien und Anträge zum Thema Cannabis besitzen. Es gäbe daher nun auch große Möglichkeiten für die Forschung und den allgemeinen Fortschritt, die die aktuell noch bestehenden großen Wissenslücken schrumpfen lassen könnten, welche global endlich unbedingt geschlossen werden müssten.

Legalize – worldwide!

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


This was my third time in Davos and I was excited to meet and listen to business leaders, heads of government, NGO’s and senior journalists from all over the world. Would I learn something new this time? Would there be justified criticism? Would environmental or anti-globalist activists dominate this year’s agenda?

Some analysts doubt whether Davos has the power to deliver the inclusive and sustainable solutions people and planet are craving for in the next decade. And that it is time for action. Not just words. The WEF’s traditional response to the criticism that it is just too easy to freeride at Davos, is that it needs to be a neutral platform, open to conflicting views, even to those who are resistant to its goals. As the WEF’s founder Klaus Schwab says in the recent new documentary “Das Forum”, “If you were a priest in a church, you would want to make the sinners come visit you on a Sunday.”

For this year’s annual meeting, the WEF tried to put their money where their mouth was. On the one hand, it invited a panel of teenage activists including 17-year old Greta Thunberg to open one of its main sessions on the current climate crisis. On the other hand, the WEF warmly welcomed US President Donald Trump as an opening speaker with an endless bombastic re-election pitch.

While it’s easy to poke fun at Davos as a talkfest of the corporate elite, there are many more platforms in Davos than those official gatherings highlighted by mainstream media. While there are only 3,000 official participants, 30,000 others participate in side events. Below you can find my personal top five experiences – for what it’s worth.

1.“We have shown that we can stop election interference and ensure privacy” (Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook)

It was great listening to both Sheryl Sandberg and Nick Clegg, the former UK deputy Prime Minister who is now responsible for Facebook’s Global Affairs and its chief lobbyist. Sheryl Sandberg and Nick Clegg spoke at a private event in Davos and revealed that Facebook is rolling out a new “privacy checkup” to 2 billion people to see how their data is being used.

Despite stories about hacking, lack of diversity and other issues in the industry, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg is optimistic about the potential of technology to improve people’s lives. She told attendees at a private event in Davos that the world is “in a clearly new and much more complicated age.” She said that while Davos historically focuses on economic security, she wanted to talk about how Facebook was chipping away at the problem.

We are democratising access for small businesses,” Sandberg said, citing an economic report that said 25 million small businesses led used Facebook apps, like Marketplace. The report also said Facebook created 3 million jobs in European economies.

While he acknowledged that Facebook did not know enough about removing bad content or preventing election interference in 2016, Clegg said. “We have shown in the elections since that we can stop election interference and ensure privacy.” Clegg was also clear in calls for greater government oversight. “We think there needs to be more constraints on companies like ours and more standards that we can all adhere to so we can decide together what is political speech, what is content that should be reviewed, what is privacy that individuals should have.” he said.

Despite what Sandberg called “major challenges” that Facebook is facing, she told attendees, “We think we are making progress because we are coming together and we continued willing to try our best to do more,” said Sandberg. “But when you give a voice to 2,8 billion people, some bad things will always happen.”

2. “The cybersecurity workforce is still too male and pale” (Jim Alkove, Chief Trust Officer Salesforce)

At the Invest in Flanders dinner, we had an interesting conversation with Jim Alkove, the Chief Trust Officer at Salesforce. Responsible for broad information management, privacy, fraud, abuse and reliability, he is the ambassador for the number one value at Salesforce, which is trust.

Jim Alkove explained how cybercrime is now a 5.2 trillion dollar threat to the world economy over the next 5 years. That’s the size of the economies of France, Italy and Spain combined. The good news is that a lot of this impact can be mitigated by an uptake in simple security hygiene like patching systems, software updates and implementing multi-factor authentication for users. The latter is often perceived as a pain for affluent users. But when we all first started using safety belts in cars, there were also a lot of people finding it inconvenient. Ultimately, we all know it is for the better.

Currently we are facing a cybersecurity skills shortage, equivalent to 3,5 million workers shortage worldwide by 2021. It is still a male and pale workforce. Salesforce is looking into how they can democratize the skillset and bring in a more innovative and diverse workforce into cybersecurity. They want to address the largest talent pool as they can, not just by traditional educational vehicles. That’s why Salesforce has built a cybersecurity Academy on their on-line learning platform. This allows everyone to come in and gain the skills they need to upskill and reskill into new jobs in cybersecurity.

3. Let there be light” (David Cohen, CEO Fluence)

For the 2nd year in a row, I joined the Cannabis Conclave, organised by the Consumer Choice Centre. They organised their summit again high up in the mountains, so I took the cable car to listen to the insights by some of the leading cannabis executives. The growing cannabis industry – both for recreational as well as medicinal use- is clearly one of the sectors to watch in the coming years. Participants were not only from the cannabis industry, but also included global investors, business journalists and policymakers.  The Consumer Choice Centre wants to use this event to fuel the legalisation debate globally and show the legitimacy and maturity of this growing legal industry.

It was encouraging to see that investors, thought leaders, researchers and public policy makers from all around the world (from Canada to Luxemburg to even China) are contributing to the growth of the cannabis industry. They ultimately serve consumers who are loudly demanding change to legal systems, health care and global sentiment. A better understanding of cannabis’ benefits has only helped as data and preliminary research continue to change the minds of even the most skeptical of skeptics.

One of the keynote speakers was David Cohen, CEO of Fluence by Osram (the German lighting company). In his illuminating keynote, he stressed the benefits of using LED lighting for cannabis growers. In the US -where it is legal to grow cannabis in an increasing number of states- 75 % of cannabis growers are now hinging lighting purchases based on energy efficiency and light intensity. His insights about the use of LED lighting confirm that the cannabis industry is taking a long-term approach for a stable, sustainable and profitable industry.

4. In essence, we are fueling a generation of change-agents” – (Noella Coursaris-Musunka, CEO and founder Malaika)

One of the most impressive sessions I attended, was a panel discussion full of strong women. Organised by the Global Citizen Forum and the Global Fund, this event wanted to explore the transformative power of education and healthcare and lay the groundwork of even greater impact. I was particularly impressed by Noella Coursaris-Musunka, the founder and CEO of Malaika. Founded in 2007, Malaika is impacting thousands of lives in the DRC through enhanced access to education, healthcare and clean water.  establishing a community-driven model that can be replicated on the global stage.

Malaika’s mission is to empower Congolese girls and their communities through education and health programs. This grassroots non-profit operates in the village of Kalebuka, in the Southeastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (Lubumbashi, DRC) and has changed an entire community.

An educated girl will increase her future earnings by approximately 10-20% for each additional year of schooling and will reinvest most of it back into her family and community. These are key factors in a nation’s socio-economic development, and yet girls still face immense obstacles in obtaining an education in the DRC. Malaika mobilizes resources so that these girls can receive the best schooling possible, providing them with greater choices, opportunities, and the capacity to make informed decisions.

Malaika’s goal is to build the leadership capacity of each individual student so that she gives back to her community and has a positive, long-term impact on the future of the DRC. “In essence, we are fueling a generation of change-agents” said Noella Coursaris-Musunka. At the same time, Malaika impacts the surrounding community through recreational and life skills programming for adults and children, as well as essential infrastructure development. With the exception of the locally hired Congolese teachers and support staff, Malaika is operated by pro bono experts and volunteers from the public and private sector.

5. Never eat alone” (inspired by Keith Ferrazzi)

For the third year in a row, we hosted a small dinner discussion in Davos, right after the traditional Belgian power reception with the Belgian PM Sophie Wilmes and King Philippe.

We enjoyed a warm evening reconnecting with old and new Belgian friends and 2 fellow Dutchmen. At the same time this allowed us to escape the speed dating madness of the Davos mountain. Itwas an informal evening with policymakers, business executives and opinion makers where networking took a backseat to fellowship and joy and a welcome opportunity to disengage from the hectic fervor of Davos.

What does it take to transform Flanders, Belgium or Europe in a more dynamic region? How do we create more wealth? How can we provide an answer to the challenges of the 21st century? In order to tackle these matters, we brought together a selected group of business leaders, policy makers and opinion leaders during a convivial Swiss dinner for an open discussion.

Concluding: nearly every conversation in Davos concerned either climate action or sustainability. That was made easier because going green is now profitable a lot of the time. The drivers for companies to become more sustainable are coming from everywhere – the science, initiatives from governments and regulators, increased consumer pressure and demands from investors. The best-prepared businesses see opportunities as well as risks and are preparing accordingly.

Never underestimate the power of talk, something at which Davos Woman and Davos Man excel. Davos can be more than empty words and gestures, if it helps to create a consensus about the need for collective action to tackle global challenges such as climate change. That’s what Davos is all about. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s called influence.

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

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