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The BC Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) has given the green light to BC cannabis stores for delivery and curbside pickup beginning on July 15. Currently, only BC government stores can legally provide home delivery. The move should give cannabis licensees a boost, allowing legal non-medical cannabis retailers to compete with illegal operators who have been selling online and making deliveries to their customers for several years.
View Policy Directive 21-11 (PDF) which amends the no-delivery rule and the cannabis store worker security verification rule.
Since legalization, BC retail cannabis licensees have been forced to compete with the illegal market. Stringent rules were put in place to protect the public from “what might happen” after legalization. Yet, illegal, unlicensed online stores operated (and still do) with seeming impunity, many of them providing door-to-door delivery.
BC Cannabis License Holders Had Many Disadvantages. Change is in the Air
In 2020, LRCB removed the rule requiring BC cannabis license holders to have frosted or “non-transparent” storefront windows. The unpopular rule, both with municipalities and licensees meant that cannabis stores appeared to be closed or went unnoticed by many passersby. Not only did the rule create a marketing challenge, but it created a security risk for staff and customers in the store. A thief could “…come in, lock the door and take all the time they want robbing a store because no one can see in”, said one cannabis retailer after a series of cannabis store robberies in Alberta. It is important to note, while the requirement for non- transparent glass has changed, the burden is still on the licensee to ensure no products and their associated accessories can be see from the exterior of the store.
BC cannabis retailers couldn’t sell online. Licensees could have a website, but customers could only reserve products online (not pay for products) for in-store pickup, yet Weedmaps listed hundreds of illegal operations that provided delivery (some promising delivery within an hour of ordering). In August 2020, LCRB amended the regulation, allowing online sales for in-store pickup. The move came as a COVID-19 safety measure, reducing the time customers had to spend in a store. At the time of that announcement, the province hinted it was considering a proposal from BC cannabis retailers to allow cannabis delivery.
While the move to allow cannabis delivery is a big leap in the right direction, only time will tell whether delivery increases business or just increases the cost of doing business. Some cannabis licensees believe that vehicle insurance costs may outweigh the benefit. As reported by Vancouver is Awesome, Evergreen Cannabis owner, Mike Babins, reacted with some reservations, stating that insurance companies would probably “charge a lot” for “sending out a dude in his twenties, with a bag full of weed”. Babins went on to suggest that a provincial government advertising campaign promoting BC cannabis retailers and the quality of their products would help more.
Solicitor General Encourages BC Public to Avoid Illegal Sellers for Safety Reasons
On June 9, BC Solicitor General Mike Farnsworth held a press conference where he pleaded with BC consumers to avoid buying cannabis from illegal operations. Farnsworth announced that the BC government – in collaboration with the BC Centre for Disease Control and the National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health – had tested 20 seized cannabis products seized from illegal sellers. Testing found traces of 24 contaminants, including bacteria, fungi and heavy metals. All samples tested contained at least one contaminant. At that time, Farnsworth didn’t mention any plans to allow delivery or any plans to go after illegal operating stores.
Congrats to BC Cannabis Retailers! Our Fingers are Crossed for You
At Thrive Liquor & Cannabis Advisors, we’ve worked with many BC cannabis licensees to optimize operations and help maintain compliance, and we’ve witnessed firsthand the challenges they’ve faced attempting to overcome rules and regulations that made it difficult to make a go of it. The cannabis licensing landscape changes exceptionally fast. The province is open to receiving licensee feedback and working with industry to help build a successful business model. The rapid industry changes will continue to level the playing field, and increase the chances of success in BC’s legal retail cannabis sector. While there undoubtedly more changes to come, cannabis retailers are commended for their ability to adapt in an ever changing regulatory framework.