Cannabis consumers in Ontario will soon be able to shop direct from cannabis farms, as well as purchase cannabis online for pick-up in stores.
Changes to the cannabis retail landscape were part of the Ford government’s fiscal update this week, but they were notable for their subtlety. Rather than open the market up for private cannabis delivery (for which it canceled a tender process in April), the Ontario Cannabis Store will retain its delivery monopoly.
As a compromise, the province will allow retailers to use a click-and-collect system, whereby customers can call ahead or go online to find out a given store’s available inventory, and reserve products they would then be required to pick up.
For some, the change fell short. Lawyer Trina Fraser tweeted “I did click and collect groceries once and I was like ‘meh.’ What we really need is retailer delivery.” (To date, only those in Saskatchewan and Manitoba can order same-day delivery service from private cannabis stores.)
The fiscal update’s other good cannabis news is the plan to finally open up “farm-gate” sales in Ontario, allowing each production site to host a retail store. The Ford government initially promised to allow farm-gate sales, but delayed their rollout through the two retail lotteries in February and August.
Industry has been persistently demanding such sales be allowed since legalization, particularly in Ontario, where limited retail-cannabis licenses have left areas like Windsor, Kitchener-Waterloo, Barrie, and Peterborough with no physical cannabis stores but sometimes numerous cannabis production sites.
The move comes as sector analysts, The Cannalysts, cite Ontario’s delayed cannabis retail rollout for costing the province $325-million in economic activity, $26-million in provincial sales tax, and $25-million in excise tax.
With the Cannabis Council of Canada arguing there is “no longer a shortage,” but rather “an ample supply of cannabis for the adult recreational market,” the pressure is on for the Conservative Ford government to find a way to broaden Ontario’s cannabis retail economy.
As Ontario opens up to farm-gate sales, many in BC are asking why their government hasn’t made the same move yet. Because of its well-established culture of cannabis growing, BC producers and craft-growing advocates have long believed farm-gate sales will be key to the BC cannabis economy. However, discussing the possibility last month, BC solicitor general Mark Farnworth said, “We’re not there yet, but I fully expect that we’ll get to a point where you will be able to see farm-gate sales.”
Elsewhere across Canada, the only other place farm-gate sales have been allowed is Newfoundland, where Canopy has specific permission from the provincial government to sell directly from its production facility.