Ontario’s cannabis sector deemed ‘essential’ amid COVID-19 outbreak

Regulated cannabis stores and producers have been deemed essential workplaces by Ontario’s government and will not be required to close their doors by midnight Tuesday amid the province’s effective lockdown to slow the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Ontario released a list late Monday identifying the essential workplaces allowed to remain open.

The closure of Ontario’s cannabis cultivators – and the shut-in of their greenhouses – would have been difficult to overcome for many large growers that already were struggling to keep the lights on before the pandemic hit.

About half of Canada’s federal license holders (142 of 337) are located in Ontario, including 100 cultivators.

The largest among them, including Canopy Growth in Smiths Falls and Tilray in Leamington, have lost billions of dollars since cannabis was legalized in Canada in late 2018.

Along with regulated cannabis stores and producers, their supply chains are considered essential and might continue to operate after putting in place “any and all measures to safeguard the well-being of their employees.”

That applies to workplaces supplying those businesses with support, supplies, systems or services – including processing, packaging, distribution, delivery and maintenance – that are necessary to operate.

The list of essential businesses applies to roughly 50 regulated adult-use cannabis stores in the province as well as their supply chains.

“We call on workplaces that remain open to be vigilant and to enforce the highest possible standards of cleanliness and caution as we continue the fight together against COVID-19,” Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade Vic Fedeli said in a statement.

For more of Marijuana Business Daily’s ongoing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the cannabis industry, click here.