Both the Ontario and Quebec governments have issued orders to suspend and close all non-essential business operations in their respective provinces. The orders are effective as of midnight on March 24, 2020. In Ontario, any non-essential businesses that remain open could face fines up to $100,000 or a year of imprisonment for individuals, and $10,000,000 for corporations. A list of essential businesses in Ontario can be found here.
Cannabis stores and cannabis producers have been deemed to be essential businesses, and thus are able to remain open during this period. Nevertheless, many businesses in the retail sector have been implementing social distancing measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, such as decreased customer capacity inside stores and increased physical distancing between customers in line-ups. Another effective measure that some cannabis retail stores are implementing in Ontario is the “click and collect” model, whereby customers can purchase and pay for their cannabis and cannabis accessories on the store’s website and simply pick-up their items in-store. This method is permitted under the Cannabis License Act, 2018 so long as the cannabis is distributed at the cannabis retail store to the person that purchased it. No delivery methods are available to private cannabis retailers at this time, meaning that private retailers cannot ship or deliver cannabis straight to a customer’s residence. This is, however, a permitted practice in the alcohol industry and it is possible that a situation such as the COVID-19 pandemic – where many individuals are still wanting to purchase cannabis but cannot, or are not willing to, leave their homes, could call for an amendment to the regulation of recreational cannabis delivery.
Individuals with medical prescriptions for the consumption of cannabis should not worry as cannabis producers have also been deemed an essential business. Therefore patients can continue to order their cannabis online directly from cannabis producers and have products shipped directly to their home, as is permitted by the medical regime.