Ontario launching cannabis delivery permanently on March 15

Employee safety and drivers insurance are among the issues retailers must tackle as they prepare to restart the service.

Nick Laba | Mugglehead Media

After flip-flopping on allowing cannabis delivery and curbside pickup several times over the course of the pandemic, Ontario is finally making the services a permanent policy.

Some retailers that have been offering delivery say they plan to continue the service going forward, but face a series of challenges that range from drivers insurance to employee safety.

On Wednesday, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario sent out a notice to licensees telling them they can offer the services starting March 15.

The agency adds that the new rules won’t allow retailers to operate entirely or predominantly as delivery businesses. No third-party services are permitted.

Calyx + Trichomes Cannabis offered delivery and curbside pickup during the pandemic. Co-owner Jennawae McLean says she believed it was a matter of public service, but her team is exhausted from having to make so many pivots.

While the services were popular during lockdowns, she says deliveries dwindled when people were allowed back into stores again.

“At that point, deliveries became very expensive: paying the team a living wage and for the routing system, not to mention team members being dedicated to it all,” McLean tells Mugglehead.

Other problems also began to present themselves.

Similar to issues faced by SkipTheDishes, McLean’s business insurance doesn’t protect her drivers, who use their own cars to make deliveries.

Because of the risk of theft, she was afraid to have her staff accept cash. Drivers already face the risk of carrying cannabis, and don’t have the regular security provided in-store.

Her delivery staff also had to start keeping a creep list. “Anyone who sexualized my staff got a burly dude to deliver next time,” McLean explains. But there were even places where the burly dudes felt uncomfortable, she adds.

It wasn’t worthwhile to come up with long-term solutions to all these issues with the services being temporary, but the issues will now get serious consideration with the policies becoming permanent.

McLean says changes are being made to relieve most of her concerns, and she expects to reinstate delivery next month ahead of 4/20.

“The new rules will allow cannabis retailers to continue to safely offer consumers greater choice, convenience and access to legal recreational cannabis,” the AGCO says in the notice.

A list of related rules emphasize the requirement that deliveries must be tied to physical stores:

  • delivery orders must be placed with a specific store location;
  • delivery orders must be fulfilled by the same store with products on that premises;
  • cannabis can’t be removed from the store for delivery unless an order has been received;
  • if cannabis is removed but the delivery isn’t completed, it must be returned to the store on the same day and remain there until the day when the delivery is attempted again;
  • deliveries can only happen when the physical store is open to the public; and
  • if a store is in a place where the owner or landlord closes the premises during regular hours, like a mall, the store can still make deliveries between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m.

For online purchases, licensees must take “reasonable” measures to ensure that customers are at least 19 years old. Licensees must display the official Ontario cannabis retail seal with the holder’s name, authorization number and store address.

Deliveries to First Nations communities will be allowed unless a community has requested it to be restricted. First Nations band councils that want to restrict cannabis delivery can submit a band council resolution to the AGCO. Upon receipt, the agency will notify all retailers, and the restriction would come into affect 30 days after notice.

Cannabis delivery and curbside pickup Ontario have been temporarily authorized under the province’s Covid-19 reopening plan. Existing rules will still apply after March 15, including record-keeping and the requirement that deliveries only be made to a residence or private place, like a hotel room.

Curbside pickups can only be made in areas adjacent to the store that are captured by the store’s surveillance system.

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