As of July 15, private cannabis retailers in BC are now allowed to take orders and payments online and then deliver them to the consumer, anywhere in BC.
Several cannabis retailers StratCann spoke with said they began sales today or will in the next few days. The program, announced in June, builds upon a previously announced curb-side pickup program and allows retailers to accept payment for an order online and then deliver products directly to the consumer.
Delivery drivers are not limited to the 30-gram public limit, as long as they have a copy of the retail license on them and proof that the cannabis in their possession is for delivery and not for personal use. Consumers will also have to pay for the product online before it leaves the store and present ID to the store employee to receive the cannabis.
Retailers can deliver to anywhere in BC, including those areas that have opted out of retail, such as Surrey and Richmond, in BC’s Lower Mainland.
Tristan Mussett of Sky High Cannabis in Squamish, about an hour south of Whistler, says they began deliveries on July 15. Although the initial demand has been low, he says customer interest has been positive and he expects it to increase over time as more become aware of it.
“We only did a couple today, but I’m sure by word of mouth it will grow,” says Mussett. “Time will tell, but we’ve been talking it up with our customers in store for about a month and everyone seems pretty stoked on it.”
Mussett says they are offering deliveries with a range of about one hour, which will allow them to deliver all the way to Whistler. They’re currently charging $10 for a delivery to Whistler, which will eventually raise to $20. There is no fee for local deliveries.
Musset, a co-owner of Sky High with his wife Aimee Todd-Mussett, says they didn’t have to hire any new staff to handle deliveries, although they may in the future. Retailers are required to have a company vehicle for delivery, rather than an employee using their own, and they cannot hire a third-party delivery service.
Not all retailers are pleased with the program, though. One Vancouver retailer who hopes to begin deliveries soon says that although he’s not all that happy with the program he’s participating so he can gauge demand and compete with other retailers.
Mike Babins, the co-owner of Evergreen Cannabis, the first licensed non-medical cannabis retailer in Vancouver, says he had told the province in the past that deliveries were not a necessary option. While many say the ability to deliver or ship cannabis will help compete with illicit online retailers who also offer deliveries, Babins disagrees, saying he expects it will end up being less than 5% of total sales.
“I thought they were listening to me when I explained the reasons why I didn’t think delivery was going to eliminate the black market,” explains Babins. “This is not the approach, this is not the way to do it, all this is going to do is hurt a lot of the retailers. But we have to offer it if everyone else is.”
Rather than allowing deliveries, he says the best way to compete with the black market is to be able to accurately inform consumers of the realities of price and quality.
“What I’ve seen from day one is that to eat into that legacy market, what works is when the people who are still partial to purchasing that way actually see what’s available. What would really help us the most in gaining that market share is relaxing the marketing rules, because people can criticize price or quality, but we’re not able to communicate accurate information about things like price.”
He says that while larger retail chains may be able to run a program at a loss, independent retailers like Evergreen may find it less practical.
“Some of the bigger chain stores have money in the reserves,” he says. “They can afford to lose money for a few years if they have to, to win the market. So if you happen to be a big store and don’t mind if you lose money, then you can undercut everyone. And if you offer to deliver anywhere, then the person sitting at home looking to order cannabis, you’re going to order from the cheaper place.”
Evergreen will be offering deliveries within their Kitsilano neighbourhood, aiming for no more than an hour turnaround from order to delivery, and all will be done by bike, with a delivery fee under $5.
Another Vancouver-area cannabis retailer who asked not to be named out of concern for upsetting the provincial regulator, said they were confused why retailers received no communication about the plans for the program before it was announced publicly.
“They’ve been really short on details, and we didn’t even know this was coming. We’ll be participating, but even finding out how it works has been really hard. We’ve had to talk to other retailers to get details.”
Jim Leslie, the Executive Director at the Kootenay Cannabis Tree, the first fully legal cannabis retailer in Nelson, says he isn’t yet ready to offer it but is excited by the possibility—especially to serve those who live in more rural, remote parts of BC.
“I’m not prepared to go ahead with it at the outset of the policy coming into effect, but it is something very important to us and something we’ll be moving to once we have an opportunity to prepare for it,” says Leslie. “But we absolutely have a demand for it. Not just in the city of Nelson proper, but in the outlying areas and I think it’s the same for most of rural BC. There are lots of smaller communities that will tend to come to the stores.
“These are the types of people we hope we can reach and include in our customer base. So I think it’s a great thing.”
Leslie says they still have to sort out logistics like how they will manage deliveries, since he is the main person staffing the Kootenay Cannabis Tree, but hopes to be able to offer deliveries well outside Nelson.
Leslie says he is also looking forward to the province’s proposed plan to allow cannabis producers to ship product directly to retailers. The province is currently in the consultation phase, with specific details on the program not being made available yet, but it is expected to launch in 2022 and may be limited to “small” producers.