A scope into Canada’s response to the Cannabis industry during Covid-19 by province reveals the industry’s resilience in the face of these trying times.
The cannabis industry is among the high-growth sector and a significant contributor to the Canadian economy. The country has gained over 400 brick-and-mortar stores since the legalization of weed in late 2018.
Initially, the cannabis industry was not factored into the statement made on April 6th by the Business Development Bank of Canada, which outlined qualifications for the Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP), including access to the Canada Emergency Business Account and the SME Loan and Guarantee Program. (1) This prompted 71 firms in the industry to write to Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains, to issue change.
Additionally, provinces Newfoundland (NL), Prince Edward Island (PEI) and Ontario (ON), also announced closure of all non-essential businesses, including cannabis retail stores, when they declared state of emergency in mid March.
However, “Canada’s federal government has deemed medical cannabis production as an “essential” to the country’s critical health-care infrastructure. The designation has intended to assist provinces. Municipalities and businesses in their decision-making around the types of employees considered essential for the health, safety, security and economic well-being of the country.” (2)
Needless to say, authorities eventually paved way for jurisdictions to include the cannabis industry. Here is a breakdown by province.
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario announced a temporary measure allowing legal cannabis retailers to serve customers with curbside pickup options and delivery for 14 days. Hours are 9 am – 11 pm with a maximum restriction of 30g of dried cannabis per person. Customers are to also place and purchase their orders online.
“Online sales had previously been the purview of the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS), the provincial agency that is responsible for the distribution of recreational weed.” On March 16, OCS data reveals that their daily online orders rose from mid-2000 to 6042. This was the same day Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, announced Canada would restrict entry at the U.S. border. Although stores are re-opened now, Ontario declared cannabis stores as non-essential businesses on April 3rd, the same day the sales climbed up to 13,691. (3)
As of April 16 2020, BNN Bloomberg reports that “Cannabis purchases rose as much as 600 percent since the beginning of March in Canada’s biggest market thanks to stockpiling by consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic – and demand may be sticking around”. (4)
Le Societe Quebecoise du Cannabis, a government-owned, legislated monopoly for the recreational sale of Cannabis, carries on with business as usual from Monday – Saturday, as it has been deemed an essential business by the province.
They have put in place the social distancing policies to ensure health and safety measures. They are also providing delivery services via Canada Post. Although, an article published on April 15 2020, raises the Union’s concern regarding workers with COVID-19 symptoms who are still showing up for work, as they are afraid of losing their sick days. However, the Crown corporation that employs them says those sick days will be reinstated if workers do prove to be infected with the virus. (5)
The Nova Scotia Liquor Corp is the only legal adult-use cannabis retailer in the province. It remains open for business, with reduced store hours and social distancing rules implemented to abide to social distancing laws. Cannabis businesses are not on the list of businesses that must be closed in Nova Scotia. (6)
The Atlantic province has declared a state of emergency. Government-owned Cannabis NB stores have been kept open with reduced hours.
The provincial government didn’t specifically address cannabis producers in its emergency declaration. Organigram, New Brunswick’s biggest cannabis producer, anticipates layoffs and production decreases as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. (7)
Licensed cannabis retailers and licensed cannabis producers have been designated critical services by the provincial government. They may remain open during a mandated closure of noncritical businesses between April 1 and April 14.
Critical businesses such as cannabis retailers that allow members of the public to enter must “ensure that appropriate social-distancing rules are followed.” Manitoba is home to six federal cannabis license holders and has issued 30 cannabis store licenses to date. (8)
B.C. has issued more than 200 recreational cannabis store licenses to date and is home to more than 80 federal cannabis licenses. The provincial government said those cannabis retailers and producers may remain open as “essential businesses” during the COVID-19 crisis. Regulated cannabis stores in British Columbia are now allowed to accept product reservations online and over the phone. (9)
Prince Edward Island (PEI)
The province has temporarily closed its government-owned PEI Cannabis retail stores until further notice.
PEI Cannabis is still offering online ordering for recreational cannabis. PEI is home to three federal cannabis license holders. Marijuana manufacturers have not listed on the province’s list of nonessential services. (10)
Unlike some other retailers in Saskatchewan, licensed cannabis stores has considered an “allowable business service” and may remain open.
Although Saskatchewan’s list of allowable business services doesn’t explicitly include cannabis production, it does permit “production, processing and supply chains” for the agriculture and manufacturing sectors to continue operating. (11)
The province has issued over 400 cannabis store licenses, more than any other Canadian jurisdiction, and boasts about 40 federal cannabis license holders.
Cannabis retailers in Newfoundland have been ordered to close for “in-person service.”
The Newfoundland government said closed recreational cannabis retailers can continue operating online if possible. Any in-person business must abide by social distancing rules. (13)
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