It looks like the Ontario provincial government is willing to give up their monopoly of online marijuana sales. Up until now, the Ontario Cannabis Store had exclusive rights to sell cannabis products online, but now amendments are being made to allow private cannabis retailers to sell online. The reason behind this sudden shift in policy is to “ensure consumers’ preferred cannabis products are available” and “wait times reduced.”
Currently there are 25 cannabis retailers in the entire province causing consistent issues with product shortages and long lines. This new strategy is being implemented to curb these problems and deter consumers from seeking cannabis on the black market.
The regulation amendments will establish a new click-and-collect system that would authorize private cannabis retailers to list their product inventory online. Adults 21 and over would have to verify their age to browse dispensary directories like Weedmaps, Leafly, and Potify. They could then select their preferred products, place an order and pick them up at the dispensary of their choice.
Online sales from the Ontario Cannabis Store have been lackluster at best. Allowing private cannabis retailers to take advantage of the e-commerce side of sales will improve product variety and eliminate shipping delays. However, OCS will still have the advantage of being able to deliver while private dispensaries will only offer in-store pick-up to verify age in-person.
This isn’t to say that private cannabis retailers aren’t excited about the prospect of selling their inventory online or over the phone. Offering in-store pick-up will reduce transactions times as customers will only have to show ID and pay. Cannabis consultant Omar Yar Khan pointed out that, “It brings an instant gratification to the consumer, and an Amazon-like experience that we don’t have right now in the province, given how long it takes for the OCS to deliver product.”
Ontario is beginning to see the benefits of the framework that more resembles Alberta’s cannabis industry. Alberta has already licensed nearly 300 businesses and stores can accept online orders through Leafly’s platform. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario will likely leave this decision to the private cannabis retailers as there are few online ordering platforms that are available.
Ontario’s fall economic statement also makes mention that cannabis regulators will end the highly-controversial lottery system for issuing licenses. Only 67 licenses were picked over the past year, and some of them were not prepared to open right away. The statement read, “The government remains committed to moving to an open allocation of cannabis retail store licenses where the number of stores is limited only by market demand.”