Uber Eats will begin offering cannabis deliveries for three Toronto cannabis stores starting Monday, October 17.
The announcement, made on October 16, includes a partnership with the American-based cannabis directory Leafly. Uber Eats will be offering deliveries for Toronto cannabis stores Shivaa’s Rose, Hidden Leaf Cannabis, and Minerva Cannabis.
The three retailers will need to provide their own certified, trained staff for the deliveries, but consumers will be able to place the orders through a “cannabis” category on the Uber Eats app.
The consumer experience will be similar to ordering food through Uber Eats, with the customer being notified when the order is accepted and processed. Ontario cannabis rules do not allow independent third-party delivery services for cannabis, which is why deliveries will still be made by the store’s CannaSell-trained staff. CannaSell is Ontario’s cannabis retail education training and certification program.
Uber Eats first offered the ability for its users to order cannabis products for pickup at Tokyo Smoke locations last November, but did not offer a delivery option at the time. The new deal with Leafly also means retailers will not have to manage their own menu. Leafly offers menu listings for many Canadian cannabis retailers.
Cameron Brown, communications officer for The Hunny Pot, a retail chain with 18 locations in Ontario, says that while the retailer won’t be partnering with Uber Eats, at least for the time being, he thinks the announcement is a step forward for the industry.
“I think no matter what, it brings the exposure that Uber Eats offers. It really legitimizes what we’re doing in Canada and in Ontario and in an industry so heavily restricted from marketing and advertising, this has already brought a great deal of exposure to the possibility of legal delivery in Ontario.”
“The announcement alone brings a lot more attention to the idea that you can offer cannabis for delivery legally now, and I think that for people who use Uber Eats, this will bring that added exposure and referral-based business to retailers in Ontario.”
Brown says The Hunny Pot has offered delivery since it was first allowed in 2020. While it’s only a small portion of overall sales, he says the chain has completed over 40,000 deliveries in the last two and a half years. Many of these, he notes, are to areas that do not have cannabis stores, such as Mississauga, Oakville, Vaughn, and Markham.
Paul Macchiusi, the president of Minerva Cannabis, one of the three partnering retailers, told StratCann that the process moved quickly. Leafly approached them after securing a deal with Uber only a few weeks ago.
Macchiusi says Minerva has previously provided only very limited delivery options so the partnership was ideal. He echoes Brown’s thoughts that Uber Eats’ platform provides additional marketing opportunities to bring the possibility of legal cannabis deliveries to new consumers.
“We took on deliveries internally and didn’t hire specifically for the position and it showed in our past delivery availability. This opportunity with Leafly and Uber is unprecedented in the cannabis space because of the opportunity it presents to place Minerva in front of new potential customers on one of the world’s largest digital marketplaces when we are already up against hundreds of retail stores.”
Not everyone is too excited by the announcement, though. Jonathan Shefsky, Manager at Body and Spirit, a cannabis store at 361 Yonge St, says the retailer currently offers delivery but it only accounts for less than about 5% of their total sales.
Since the company currently only offers foot-delivery due to costly insurance for vehicle use, he says he could see a service like this being helpful, but is skeptical about the additional costs charged by Uber Eats.
“It would depend on how much it would cost,” says Shefsky. “I know Uber usually wants to take at least 25%. So if they’re going to be doing that, that’s going to add the cost on to the customer,” or will cut into the store’s margins, he adds.
Macchiusi from Minerva says that he cannot share what Uber Eats will charge retailers, and isn’t sure whether the deal will make sense long term. But again, notes that just the exposure of the announcement will likely make it worthwhile.
“Whether this fee will be worth it for us or not will be determined over the duration of the project. If not for anything, it’s an opportunity we couldn’t say no to.”
Sasha Soeterik, the owner of Flower Pot on Dundas, says her store will continue to do its own deliveries for the foreseeable future.
“It seems to me that Uber Eats is just looking for a reason to be in the headlines,” says Soeterik. “The cannabis shops involved, I’m sure, are just trying to get a little exposure, but I imagine they’re paying a lot for that.”
“I don’t see this being a unicorn for retailers,” she adds, “but I guess Uber Eats gets the headline. The reality is it’s the same delivery from the same shops, they’re just paying a premium to be on the Uber Eats website. Flower Pot has been offering free delivery and reasonable prices since November 2020.”
Uber Eats says they are offering the services to provide more delivery options for the Toronto area.
“We are partnering with industry leaders like Leafly to help retailers offer safe, convenient options for people in Toronto to purchase legal cannabis for delivery to their homes, which will help combat the illegal market and help reduce impaired driving,” said Lola Kassim, General Manager of Uber Eats Canada in a company press release.
“Over the last few years, we have invested heavily in our delivery business, and selection has expanded tremendously. Uber Eats has grown quickly to become a versatile platform usable by diverse businesses large and small.”
Uber Eats has refused to disclose what their fee for deliveries will be, reports the Canadian Press.
In the past, some restaurants in Toronto have said they were unhappy with the delivery service due to high fees and poor customer service.
Ontario began temporarily allowing cannabis delivery and curb-side pick-up in early 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions. In early 2022 the rules were made permanent.
Cannabis delivery options in Canada
Alberta also began allowing cannabis stores to deliver in March 2022, but specifically disallowed third-party delivery services such as taxis, Uber Eats, and Skip the Dishes.
In July 2021, British Columbia announced that retailers would be able to do their own cannabis deliveries. Then in March of this year, the BC government also announced they would be beginning deliveries from their online BC Cannabis Store via a third-party delivery service, Pineapple Express.
By July of this year, BC announced that private cannabis stores in the province could also provide deliveries through common carriers such as Canada Post and other delivery-service providers.
Delivery options of various kinds—either from stores or from a provincial online store—are available in all provinces and territories. Manitoba and Saskatchewan also both offer cannabis delivery options for retailers, as does Quebec, New Brunswick, Yukon, PEI, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories.