Last week, cannabis dispensaries in Ontario, Canada were forced to close recreational retail stores in the midst of the pandemic.
This is after recreational pot shops were originally declared essential businesses by the Canadian government on March 24th and would be permitted to remain open.
However, on Tuesday, Ontario lawmakers had an apparent change of heart, reversing their previous decision of removing recreational marijuana dispensaries from the list of essential businesses.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford released a statement saying, “We are facing a critical moment in the fight against COVID-19 and we must do everything in our power to keep everyone safe and healthy and prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed. Everyone must do their part to stop the spread and flatten the curve. If you are not an essential business, you need to close your doors, work from home if possible and play a role to help contain this outbreak. This is a matter of life and death.”
On Friday, Premier Ford said, “We’re taking additional steps to flatten the curve. We’re announcing the closure of many more sectors of the economy and I can tell you this was no easy task.”
The two-week shutdown order was announced just a few days prior to being enacted; the closure started on Saturday, April 4th, at 11:59 pm, and will extend through April 18th, if not longer. An extension of the closure is already being expected.
In response to the initial removal of cannabis as an “essential” service, Wikileaf put together a petition last Friday to reopen dispensaries under the guidance of allowing delivery and curbside pickup. The petition garnered over 4,000 signatures.
Online recreational cannabis sales through the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) will reportedly still be allowed despite the closure order.
Medical marijuana dispensaries will also continue to operate; although recreational cannabis has been deemed non-essential, Canadian legislators can at least agree that medical marijuana patients deserve access to cannabis during the shutdown.
Owner of Kingston dispensary Calyx & Trichomes Jennawae McLean told Marijuana Business Daily, “If it’s a matter of a few weeks for the greater good, we’ll be OK and we’ll get through it. The fact is, we’ve gotten over the hard part now because we have our license. Nothing lasts forever, so as soon as we’re able to, we’ll be out selling cannabis, even if it’s in a modified way like only curbside (pickup) or only click-and-collect.”
The Ontario government has yet to legalize recreational cannabis delivery services. Residents are hoping that the shutdown will motivate lawmakers to expand options for dispensaries and adapt to the current situation.
Added McLean, “Hopefully it will encourage the Ontario government to allow cannabis dispensary services, or allow businesses to deliver themselves, like they’re allowing restaurants to.”
Shiny Bud Director Richard Ledesma expressed a similar opinion, saying, “I’d really like to see a little bit more regulation or allowances for (cannabis) storefronts to at least stay open, but maybe have modified procedures…maybe curbside pickup or click-and-collect, and things like this (so) that we can stay and still continue to service our clientele.”
Canadian journalist Antonia Zerbisias Tweeted earlier today, “Well, if you’re gonna be forced to stay on the couchmaster, may as well enjoy the ride…Ontario passes emergency order allowing pot shops to deliver and offer pickup.”
Well, if you’re gonna be forced to stay on the couchmaster, may as well enjoy the ride…Ontario passes emergency order allowing pot shops to deliver and offer pickup | CTV News https://t.co/sv5FEfJ8Nl #ONpoli #marijuana #Cannabis #Cannabus
— Antonia Zerbisias (@AntoniaZ) April 8, 2020