Cannabis retailers in Ontario were allowed to reopen for curbside pickup and deliver on Tuesday under an emergency order issued by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). The move reverses an order issued by the province last week that deemed recreational marijuana shops nonessential businesses and directed them to close to help contain the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Under the temporary order, licensed recreational marijuana retailers will be permitted to take orders and process payments online or via telephone for home delivery or curbside pickup by customers. Sales will be permitted every day from the hours of 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. The temporary order does not change the cap on purchases that limits sales to 30 grams of dried cannabis or the equivalent per transaction.
Customers must pay for their orders in advance over the phone or online. When a customer arrives for curbside pickup, the order will be brought to them outside in the product’s original packaging. Payment onsite will not be permitted, and transactions must be captured on the retailer’s video surveillance system.
Emergency Order Reverses Previous Closure
Ontario’s emergency order marks the second time in less than a week that the provincial government has changed course in its treatment of recreational cannabis businesses. When nonessential businesses were ordered on March 24 to close in response to the outbreak, retailers were deemed essential and permitted to remain open. Three days later, regulators changed course and issued an order for recreational marijuana shops to close. Cannabis producers were allowed to continue operating because they supply a product that is also used medicinally.
AGCO said in a statement released on Tuesday evening that the move was being taken under an emergency order by the Ontario government issued to help curtail the illegal cannabis market during the pandemic.
“We’ve been working closely with the Government of Ontario on ways to support cannabis retail store operators and legal recreational cannabis consumers since the stores were ordered to close following a provincial order declaring a state of emergency,” said Jean Major, the commission’s registrar and CEO. “This new measure helps address consumer demand and maintain a revenue stream for store operators while supporting the government’s broader objectives.”
Omar Yar Khan, the cannabis group lead at consulting firm Hill and Knowlton Strategies, said that the new order was issued after cannabis businesses petitioned the government of Premier Doug Ford. The firms noted that many cannabis consumers use recreational marijuana medicinally and that unlicensed sellers would not respect the closure order.
“I think it’s good that the Ford government has listened to some of the urgent feedback from retailers from this province that have been on the forefront of advocating on this issue,” Khan said.
The emergency order allowing cannabis delivery and curbside pickup in Ontario will be in effect for 14 days, with the possibility of an extension if the government’s emergency order to close businesses is extended.