In response to the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency, the Association of Canadian Cannabis Retailers (ACCRES) would like to recognize the Government of British Columbia for recently evolving policy to allow for regulated cannabis stores to accept product reservations online and over the phone. This change in regulatory framework will significantly reduce the amount of time consumers have to spend in stores amid the COVID-19 crisis.
In supplement to these measures, we request that the government enact and support three regulatory changes to cannabis retail regulations to further support the social distancing measures recommended by public health authorities:
- Online Payment
- Direct Delivery
- Reducing Contact
In the interest of balancing public health, along with our customers’ need to access legal cannabis, and the long-term economic health of our members, we propose that the Government of British Columbia allow retailers to sell their products online or by phone and collect payment in advance.
Allowing for payment in advance avoids the major point of contamination in a “click and collect” transaction: the requirement to accept cash or interact with the payment processing machine. Pre-payment would reduce contact in store to the absolute minimum, and would facilitate the best possible circumstances for social distancing.
In further support of social distancing and to accommodate those that are unable to leave their homes, we ask that delivery be allowed directly to customers from the regulated private retailer of their choice. ACCRES believes the best way to ensure continuity of service in these circumstances while minimizing exposure is to allow already trained and security screened staff of private retailers to deliver orders directly to customers.
Providing greater access to regulated cannabis is vital to protecting public health and safety, and to destabilizing the illicit market – both key aims of the Cannabis Act and provincial regulations. Due to the convenience the illicit market operators continue to be able to offer through direct delivery, legal sales in BC are hundreds of millions of dollars behind that of Alberta. Direct delivery from licensed private cannabis stores conducted in compliance with all health and safety standards provides local communities with an essential and regulated touchpoint that can act as a resource for education and responsible use.
As a further social distancing initiative, we have already engaged with Health Canada to request that they remove the requirement for a signature on delivery of cannabis products. We believe that verifying the name, shipping and billing address against the credit card used to purchase the product would allow for sufficient verification of who placed the order, particularly given the fact that most of the adult population of BC are at home.
Similar measures have already been enacted on the shipping of prescription drugs, as well as reducing requirements to renew drug prescriptions. We ask that the Province support the private cannabis retailers of BC and public health by supporting these initiatives and advocating for this change at the federal level. ACCRES believe that by allowing these measures, cannabis retailers will be better equipped to protect public health and safety, while also ensuring the continued operations of independent cannabis retailers that provide access to safe and regulated products. These measures will allow essential services to continue without unnecessarily endangering public health, and we believe it is a compromise that will strengthen BC’s overall response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The following Ministries have been cc’ on this recommendation:
- Hon. John Horgan, Premier of BC (The Office of the Premier)
- Geoff Meggs, Chief of Staff to the Premier
- Hon. Michelle, Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness
- Hon. Adrian Dix, Minister of Health