Do legal cannabis return policies benefit the consumer?

Photo credit: Clay Banks on Unsplash

In Canada, the sale and distribution of weed is controlled by each province and territory individually. Some rely on a government-run monopoly for sale and distribution, while others have issued out retail licences to private companies. Some use a mix of both. For return policies, this means the potential for variation as you travel across the country—or from store to store. Inside the Jar set out to take a deeper look into Canada’s legal weed return policies and find out if they serve to benefit the consumer.

Most private stores and government-run retailers use a similar return policy for cannabis. The Société Québécoise du Cannabis (SQDC), Alberta Cannabis, the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS), and BC Cannabis Stores all allow for returns or exchanges of product that was delivered by mistake, recalled, or defective in some way.

The smaller details—such as returning unopened products that were purchased by accident, or getting a refund instead of an exchange—vary from retailer to retailer. However, no government retailer currently allows for returns based on customer dissatisfaction, putting the pressure on consumers to purchase the right product the first time.

Finding a non-government cannabis store that allows for returns based on dissatisfaction can also be difficult. At Lush Leaf Cannabis, a store in Saskatchewan that received its licence through the private retail model in the province, the return policy listed on their site says they only allow for returns of recalled products, or products shipped in error.

When ITJ reached out to Lush Leaf Cannabis and inquired about the possibility of receiving defective or mouldy weed, the customer service agent replied that the store’s staff would ask to see the product and decide if a refund is warranted on a case-by-case basis. This was found to be the common result with several other storefronts that were contacted.

Checking the Quality of Your Cannabis Requires Breaking the Seal

For recreational consumers, there is a conundrum surrounding return policies that do not allow for dissatisfaction-based returns. Due to Health Canada requiring cannabis containers to be opaque or translucent, product quality cannot be known until the seal is broken. And once the seal is broken, most private stores and all government retailers will not allow for returns without either a product recall or a visible issue, such as mould.

This leaves recreational consumers with a gamble and buy-at-your-own-risk scenario.

However, an effective dissatisfaction-based return policy is a possible solution to this situation, as it would allow consumers to return an undesirable product that was previously hiding inside an opaque container.

For medical patients, returns and refunds are handled directly by the medical retailer they have signed up with. Broken Coast, a licensed medical and recreational producer out of B.C., allows their patients to make refunds based solely on dissatisfaction. They limit returns to 10 grams per strain and 30 grams per order, and also ask that a note is included explaining why the cannabis is being returned.

Broken Coast appears to be an outlier in terms of their return policy, since many other medical retailers such as Whistler Cannabis and Shoppers Drug Mart do not allow for dissatisfaction-based returns.

Is it easy for consumers to identify rotten or mouldy weed?

Complaints have been made about receiving mouldy weed from the OCS, which reportedly left one customer without a refund for the product they believed to be spoiled. This adds another layer to the decision that recreational consumers must face when they purchase legal cannabis: will the retailer have the customer’s best interests in mind for returns?

Smoking mouldy weed can have adverse health effects and risks for those with respiratory issues, or those who might be immunocompromised. Determining if cannabis has been affected by mould or bud rot can be a difficult task even for experienced consumers, which leaves ITJ wondering how difficult it must be for someone new to cannabis altogether.

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If you have experienced any severely adverse or noxious unintended effects from cannabis that was legally purchased in Canada, there is an online form you can fill out and submit to Health Canada.