B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Attorney General David Eby attend opening of the first government-run B.C. Cannabis Store in Kamloops on Oct. 19, 2018. (Contributed)

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Attorney General David Eby attend opening of the first government-run B.C. Cannabis Store in Kamloops on Oct. 19, 2018. (Contributed)

Vernon cannabis retailer says delivery service a long time coming

Added convenience expected to persuade buyers to ‘go legal’ says public health minister

Home delivery of legal cannabis beginning July 15 is applauded by a Vernon retailer who says it’s long overdue.

B.C. had the biggest illegal cannabis market in Canada when recreational use was legalized in 2018, and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says allowing online ordering and delivery is another step to a goal of getting to 70 per cent market share for the network of government and licensed retail stores in four years.

The COVID-19 pandemic has restricted retail store attendance and illegal dealers have benefited.

“Since the federal legalization of non-medical cannabis, we’ve been working to support a strong and diverse cannabis industry, shrink the illicit market and keep products out of the hands of children and youth,” Farnworth announced June 17.

“Allowing direct delivery to consumers isn’t just an advantage retailers have told us is vital to the viability of their sector, it’s also a way we can further our public safety goals.”

Vernon’s Spiritleaf owner Sarah Ballantyne said she began writing to local and provincial politicians when the COVID-19 pandemic began last year urging delivery options but nothing happened.

“Finally we can implement this in July 2021,” she said.

“This allows us to offer our products to those consumers who are currently using the government online store, illicit MOM (mail order marijuana) service or having to rely on others to bring cannabis to them in their home.”

Ballantyne said she can see this service being well used in the winter months, especially by seniors.

“Anytime the government gives us new tools we see the consumer respond positively with increased sales and traffic,” she said.

“We need these things to be competitive and relevant in a market that isn’t fully adjusted to the ‘new’ way yet.

“They (the government) need to keep listening and making changes to support us.”

The Association of Canadian Cannabis Retailers also praised the move.

“Knowing retailers can start hiring without delay and be ready to better meet customers’ needs when delivery becomes an option is incredibly welcome news,” executive director Jaclynn Pehota said.

“Adding convenient home delivery to the mix of knowledgeable staff and regulated product can only serve to make the legal cannabis sector the source of choice for more people.”

Spiritleaf will be able to transition easily into offering the new service as some of the nearly 100 stores operating in Canada already offer it so procedures have already been established, Ballantyne said.

“Specifically here in Vernon, we already have a company car ready to go and the staff to scale up and start as soon as possible.”

The government’s push for market share was also helped June 9, when Farnworth released results of sample testing of illegal cannabis products seized from illegal dispensaries in Metro Vancouver.

Of the 20 samples taken from six storefront dealers, 18 contained detectable levels of fungicide or other contaminants, with only three meeting the standards required by Health Canada for legal sales.

Ballantyne said she’s already noticed new customers in store in the wake of those findings.

“Some are used to ordering these products online and delivered to their door so at least they will have options once this is implemented and then some will find the transition seamless and have confidence in the products they are receiving,” Ballantyne said.

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