Ontario’s marijuana wholesaler is expanding its expedited delivery service to London, the only city in Southwestern Ontario where the new service is available.

But critics of the Ontario government’s cannabis delivery monopoly are questioning why pot shops aren’t allowed to offer the same service.

Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS), the government-run pot wholesaler and delivery service, has rolled out its express delivery service to seven more cities across the province. Orders placed will be delivered within three days at no cost.

“OCS is pleased to continue increasing access to legal cannabis for Ontario adults and making it easy for consumers to choose legal,” spokesperson Joanna Hui said in an email.

OCS is the only legal option for cannabis delivery in the province, but it has drawn fire for being too slow and expensive.

Ontario briefly let cannabis retail stores offer delivery and curbside pickup — a move the industry had long demanded — in April amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the temporary emergency order was lifted in July, despite protests from many of the brick-and-mortar stores, which argued the services let them compete with the black market.

The Friendly Stranger at 1135 Richmond St. was the only London pot shop to offer both delivery and curbside pickup.

Company president James Jesty said the government wants to maintain a monopoly on pot delivery in Ontario.

“I fully think that we should be able to do delivery,” said Jesty, whose company struck a partnership deal to open the store near Western University’s gates. “We’re still in COVID, we’re still being asked to stay home.”

Money was spent hiring drivers and renting vehicles to set up the Friendly Stranger’s delivery service, which was free for orders over $50, he said. “When they took it away from us, it really didn’t make a lot of sense.”

David Clement, North American affairs manager for the Consumer Choice Centre, said only letting OCS deliver pot products hurts consumers by leaving them with no other options.

“COVID-19 has really rallied people to support local businesses,” said Clement, whose centre has lobbied provinces to let retailers offer same-day delivery. “That same concept would apply to cannabis retail.”

OCS offers same-day delivery in more than a dozen cities, mostly in the Greater Toronto Area.

Last month, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), the province’s marijuana regulator, pledged to increase the pace of pot shop approvals from 20 to 40 a month, starting this fall.

In London, where seven marijuana retailers now operate, another 15 are in the final approval stage.

Originally published here.



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