On Friday, November 20, 2020, the Attorney General of Ontario Doug Downey approved an emergency order to place the regions of Toronto and Peel under a new lockdown in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19. Two days later, on November 22, 2020, Ontario Regulation 654/20 (Regulation) was filed in an effort to minimize and clarify the impact of this emergency order on businesses located within the lockdown areas. Under the Regulation, licensed cannabis retail stores located within the Toronto and Peel region are included as businesses that may remain open subject to significant restrictions on operations.
Cannabis retailers must pivot to e-commerce, curbside pick-up and home delivery
The Regulation allows licensed cannabis retail stores located within the Toronto and Peel regions to continue operations through alternative methods of sales that do not require patrons to enter the indoor area of the business. Such alternative methods of sales include e-commerce, curbside pickup and home delivery services, reminiscent of operations during the first COVID-19 lockdown in Ontario earlier in 2020.
Dentons Canada applauds the Government of Ontario for offering licensed cannabis retailers practical alternatives to traditional in-store purchases, while following public health guidelines and helping in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures provide further evidence that the Government of Ontario appreciates the importance of licensed cannabis retail stores remaining accessible to customers in order to effectively combat the illegal market. Moreover, it also highlights the cannabis retail industry’s integral role in the economic growth of Ontario.
This is the second time during the COVID-19 pandemic that the Ontario government has afforded licensed cannabis retail stores the same e-commerce, delivery and curbside pickup abilities enjoyed by retailers in other sectors. Outside of these emergency orders, the Ontario Cannabis Store holds a monopoly on the delivery of cannabis products in Ontario. However, as discussed in our last article, these emergency orders lay the groundwork for cannabis retailers to further develop, implement and test their online payment and delivery systems in an effort to demonstrate that a more permanent iteration of this approach is not only viable, but also conducive to the objectives of deterring use of the illicit cannabis market and protecting public health.
Dentons Canada’s leading Cannabis group will continue to work closely with existing and new industry stakeholders who intend to participate in the Ontario cannabis retail regime, and provide frequent insights on these important developments.