Ontario Government Issues Emergency Order to Re-Open Cannabis Stores
Since our previous article on this topic, the Ontario Government has removed cannabis retail stores from the list of essential workplaces. The cannabis community has been vocal in its disagreement with the decision. As of yesterday, April 7, 2020, the Ontario Government issued an emergency order (the “Order”) to reopen cannabis stores on a limited basis in order to curtail the illicit market during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Order has been issued for a period of 14 days, however it is subject to extension.
Pursuant to the Order, customers will not be allowed to enter cannabis stores, however they can purchase products online and do a curbside pick-up at the store. Payment for the purchased products must be done online or over the phone in advance of pick-up. The individual picking up the cannabis must be the same individual that made the purchase. Store personnel may only distribute cannabis to customers in an area that is in close proximity to the store and clearly captured by surveillance cameras. Stores must continue to comply with government directives regarding social distancing such as keeping sufficient space between customers in any line-ups.
Alternatively, the Order now provides for the possibility of delivery, so customers have the convenience of being able to stay at home and have their cannabis delivered. In order to deliver, personnel must be directly employed by the cannabis retailer and have undergone training under the CannSell program. Therefore, retailers cannot use the services of third parties for the purpose of delivery. Cannabis products can be delivered to the purchaser or another person who lives at the address provided they are at least 19 years old. Retailers must retain records of the name and address of the purchaser including the address to which the cannabis was delivered. As was previously the case, customers cannot purchase more than 30 grams of dried cannabis (or equivalent) at a time and stores continue to operate between the hours of 9:00am and 11:00pm.
The Order has implemented a few restrictions on the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario’s (the “AGCO”) own operations. The AGCO will not issue any new retail store authorizations for the duration of the Order. It will, however, continue to process these retail store authorization applications so that once the Order has been lifted, businesses will be prepared to move forward. The AGCO will continue to issue retail operator licenses and retail manager licenses during this time.
The AGCO has also made several changes to regulatory requirements to ease the administrative burden on cannabis retailers in areas such a background checks, inventory counts and staffing concerns. See the information bulletin here for more details.
For legal advice on issues arising from COVID-19, please contact your Torkin Manes lawyer. For more information about dealing with COVID-19, please visit ourCOVID-19 Resource Center.
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