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COVID-19 rocks Canadian cannabis industry at all levels

As the coronavirus continues to have a profound effect on business operations around the world, the Canadian cannabis industry is taking necessary steps to advocate for itself, while limiting the risk of spread.

As reported earlier today by the Canadian Press, more than 70 firms in the industry are requesting financial assistance from the federal government. In a letter addressed to Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains, companies have requested access to wage subsidies for small businesses, as well as to funding made available through the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada.

Last week, the BDC told members of the industry that $10 billion in relief money made available through the bank would not be accessible by legal cannabis companies.

Retailers Kiaro and Fire and Flower Inc. and producers Canopy Rivers Inc., WeedMD, Organigram Inc., and Tantalus Labs are among the companies who have signed the letter.

“Our access to capital, including credit, is challenging. COVID-19 has added another significant impact, both with our suppliers and our workforce,” the letter reads.

“As the federal government considers supports for small, medium and large Canadian businesses, we ask that the regulated cannabis industry be included.”

At the provincial level, distributors and retailers have begun implementing measures to stay in line with government orders that mandate social distancing.

In British Columbia, the Liquor Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) has revised a policy that will allow retailers to take reservations for non-medical cannabis products, either by phone or online. While online sales by private stores are still banned (consumers can only make online purchases through the provincial retailer, BC Cannabis Stores), those who prefer to shop at private stores can pre-order products and then pay and pick them up in-store.

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Provincial distributors in B.C. and Quebec have also warned that online orders through BC Cannabis Stores and Société québeécoise du cannabis are no longer being delivered to home addresses. Canada Post has suspended the delivery of packages that require proof of identity or a signature, which means customers must instead collect their orders from a local post office.

Changes are being made in other provinces, too. As a result of a massive influx in orders, the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) is suspending same-day and next-day deliveries. Meanwhile in the prairies, Alberta Cannabis has let customers know that their deliveries made through either Canada Post or Purolator will likely experience delays. In the Maritimes, PEI Cannabis has announced that it will be closing all stores at 2 p.m. each day to help slow the spread of the virus.

In the Lower Mainland, retailers like the Village Bloomery, THC Canada, Evergreen, and Kiaro are taking steps to help do their part in limiting contact with customers and keeping their stores clean.

In Vancouver, the Village has reduced its operating hours to four days a week, and will be open from Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. THC Canada and Evergreen (also in Vancouver) have limited the number of customers permitted in the store at one time to a total of five, while Kiaro’s new Port Moody location will be open from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. for the foreseeable future.

The COVID-19 outbreak is also having an effect on cannabis testing labs. In Nanaimo, Salvation Biosciences has informed its customers that it will no longer be taking in-person samples. All customers are asked to send samples via courier. So far it is the only lab to have implemented such measures. Calls to Keystone Labs, MB Labs, and Anandia labs went unanswered.

This article is available under a Canadian Creative Commons licence.