British Columbia Update on Accessing Cannabis Delivery Services During COVID-19

This blog was originally published on May 11, 2020.

Despite the legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada, cannabis delivery services by private retailers to customers remains illegal in many provinces, including British Columbia.

In British Columbia, the terms of a non-medical retail license to sell cannabis do not permit the licensee to offer or provide a delivery service for non-medical cannabis, or otherwise engage the services of a third party to provide such services in respect of the licensee’s retail establishment. However, in light of the changing business market and social distancing requirements resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, some provinces are changing the way in which non-medical cannabis products may be accessed.

In April, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario authorized cannabis retail stores in Ontario to offer delivery and curbside pick-up services as an alternative to the mandated closure of all cannabis retail stores. These changes lasted for the duration of the period of declared emergency, which ended on July 23, 2020.

Update: August 7, 2020

British Columbia has amended its regulations to allow private cannabis retail store licensees to sell non-medical cannabis products online for pickup in store.

British Columbia’s previous regulations indicated that customers may only reserve non-medical cannabis products online and then must be physically present to pay and collect the purchase from a retail location. On August 4, 2020, these regulations were amended in response to requests from private retailers and to address concerns of customers regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. The amended regulations will now allow for the selection and purchase of non-medical cannabis related products to be made on a website, an app, or by telephone. However, the amended regulations still require customers to visit stores to retrieve the products that were purchased online.

These changes will decrease the time that customers spend at retail cannabis stores, and  ultimately, supports public health and safety, not only by reducing the time that customers spend in retail stores, but also by allowing customers to safely remain physically distanced from employees and other customers at stores.

It is also important to note that the online selection and payment process will require an age-verification tool to ensure that every customer is of legal age to purchase cannabis products. The purpose of the in store pickup (and lack of delivery method) is to allow retail store employees to properly check and verify customer identification. The Government is currently considering proposals from private retailers for a safe delivery method of online cannabis. However, any proposed relaxation of the current delivery regulations would need to maintain the strict standards to prevent youth from accessing cannabis.

Additionally, the amended regulations will also permit cannabis retail store licensees, who own  multiple retail stores, to accept prepaid purchase gift cards at any of that licensee’s locations or through its online system. This has amended the previous regulation which required that gift cards be used only at the store at which the card was purchased.

The aim of the changes implemented by the amended regulations is to increase the competitiveness of legal operators and divert business away from illegal cannabis sellers by offering the same convenience for consumers.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.