Despite reports of “click-and-collect” services coming to B.C. retail, a recent provincial policy directive still requires customers to go in-store to pay for and pick up their weed.
This new directive falls short of online sales and delivery options available in provinces including Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario.
Providing these options would allow B.C. residents, who currently face the country’s highest number of COVID-19 infections, to reduce non-essential physical transactions that have the potential to spread the disease.
Tuesday afternoon’s update from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry showed B.C. pulling ahead of Ontario for the first time with a total of 617 confirmed cases, compared to Ontario’s 572. For reference, the population of Ontario is nearly three times that of B.C.
International advocacy group the Consumer Choice Center, who recently called for all provinces to legalize same-day delivery, said such policies would have the added benefit of reducing illicit sales.
Currently, B.C.’s provincial wholesaler holds a monopoly on online recreational cannabis sales. “BC Cannabis Stores: the only place to shop non-medical cannabis online in BC,” reads a slogan on the homepage of its website.
Late Friday, British Columbia’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) authorized private cannabis retailers to offer non-medical cannabis product reservations online or by phone.
However, the guidance says that reserved products must be paid for and picked up in store.
The move comes after multiple calls from B.C. retailers for the province to allow for cannabis delivery and “click-and-collect” services that are offered in other Canadian provinces.
“It’s hard for us when we don’t have an option,” Muse Cannabis manager Frida Hallgren told Mugglehead in an interview last week. “At times like this it would have been very useful to have a delivery system.”
Unclear how product reservations support social distancing
The term click-and-collect is used to describe retail services where customers buy a product online and then come to collect it, either in-store or at the curbside.
The demand for brick-and-mortar alternatives has expanded rapidly as citizens have been asked, and now ordered, to practice social distancing measures in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.
With its new expanded emergency powers, the City of Vancouver can now fine businesses up to $50,000 and individuals $1,000 for violating social distancing guidelines.
It’s unclear how the LCRB’s new policy would work to decrease potentially risky social interactions if customers have to meet staff in-store to buy cannabis products.
As its explanation, the branch said no policy direction on non-medical cannabis product reservations was provided previously.
“This policy change now allows licensees to offer reservations of non-medical cannabis products available in their store to customers via their website or by telephone,” it said. “Existing requirements for licensee websites remain and licensees are prohibited from selling non-medical cannabis products online or by telephone. However, licensees may continue online sales of cannabis accessories and gift cards.”
Mugglehead reached out to the B.C. Attorney General’s office on Monday morning about why online sales are not being allowed, and is waiting for comment.
Top image: Store Manager Frida Hallgren at Muse Cannabis on Granville Street in Vancouver, B.C. Photo by Nick Laba