Delivering on cannabis access

Can on-demand cannabis delivery serve as a convenient, accessible bridge between the black market and provincially operated retail?

By Ryan Dempsey

October 17, 2018

There has been increasing concern expressed that the legal market for cannabis may not be able to compete with the illicit black market. Industry experts attribute this growing unease to several factors, ranging from the inability of producers to build a brand to the lack of alternative consumption products–stocked in many illegal dispensaries–available on October 17.

A less discussed, but nonetheless very pressing issue, is the inconvenience that consumers will face when purchasing legal cannabis. In Ontario, for example, the move by the newly elected Ford government to privatize cannabis retail will undoubtedly bolster access and convenience for consumers. That said, the government’s decision to allow municipalities to opt out of cannabis retail may prove to be a boon to illegal operators.

It’s difficult to gauge how much authority municipalities should have in the development of brick-and-mortar retail. On one hand, it’s vital that communities have a say on how cannabis will be sold in their cities, towns and neighbourhoods. On the other hand, the will of municipalities may not align with provincial objectives to eliminate the black market and keep cannabis out of the hands of minors.

It is anticipated that access to the legal product will be severely limited for cannabis consumers residing in municipalities that have optedout. Consumers will either need to travel to other regions that allow retail or buy online through the government’s online marketplace.

While the latter will work for some, the online solution has its share of challenges. To ensure cannabis is not delivered to minors, consumers must show their ID to verify their age upon delivery. Since Canada Post has exclusive rights to delivery in Ontario, a customer will have to be home between 9 am to 8 pm to receive their shipment. If they are not home, they will have to pick-up products from the closest post office. Deliveries will also take between one to three days to arrive.

Municipal opt-outs combined with online shopping’s logistical challenges threaten to make legal purchase of cannabis inaccessible to many Ontarians. This situation would allow the black market to thrive by providing more convenient and timely solutions to consumers.

A possible third solution may be on-demand delivery services. With these already operational across a variety of industries, consumers seem comfortable ordering dinner or groceries. Might cannabis be the next option on that list?

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario already allows for on-demand delivery of beer and liquor. Expanding this to include cannabis would represent a seamless solution to the problems created by the new regulations.

On-demand cannabis delivery could offer a convenient and reliable way to service consumers, especially those in rural communities and in “dry” municipalities that have opted-out of the provincial framework. The option could help create a strong legal alternative to the black market while respecting the will of municipal partners.

Celine Chang