Regulated cannabis stores in British Columbia are now allowed to accept product reservations online and over the phone as the province looks to support retailers while reducing the amount of time consumers spend in stores amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dugald Smith, general manager of the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, notified stakeholders of the policy directive via email late Friday:
“To support the nonmedical cannabis retail industry and act upon the feedback of licensees, the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch is now allowing consumers to reserve nonmedical cannabis online via the licensee’s website or over the phone for pick up and payment in store.”
Reserved products will still have to be picked up and paid for in regulated stores, according to the directive.
Licensees are allowed to continue selling cannabis accessories and gift cards online.
The measure is also intended to promote social distancing guidelines ordered by the provincial health officer.
British Columbia declared a state of emergency on March 17 over the coronavirus pandemic. Ten deaths and 424 confirmed cases of COVID-19 had been recorded in the province as of 3 p.m. local time March 21.
Omar Yar Khan, national cannabis lead for Toronto consultancy Hill+Knowlton, said click-and-collect services are an important tool for licensed retailers to compete with the illicit market.
“As Canada deals with COVID-19, click-and-collect services are doubly important from a public health perspective as they allow consumers to access product while enabling social distancing,” he told Marijuana Business Daily.
“Governments should also consider allowing licensed retailers to participate in direct delivery services to further promote social distancing while protecting the business viability of private retailers.”
British Columbia has issued 201 cannabis store licenses – second only to Alberta’s 433 recreational marijuana providers. Thirty-four more stores in B.C. have been approved in principle.
The province enjoyed steady month-over-month sales growth in January, rising 11% to 19.7 million Canadian dollars ($14 million), according to the latest data from Statistics Canada.
B.C.’s online portal maintains a monopoly over e-commerce sales of recreational cannabis.
Matt Lamers is Marijuana Business Daily’s international editor, based near Toronto. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.