Cannabis no longer an essential service in Ontario, stores to shut this weekend

Apr 3 2020, 1:50 pm

Among some very “stark” news about potential disease projections, Ontario’s government has updated its list of essential businesses during the pandemic. Among those that didn’t make the cut this time around are cannabis producers and retailers.

“Following advice from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health,” reads an update on the province’s list of essential services, “on April 3, 2020, Ontario updated the list of essential businesses that can remain open. The restrictions are aimed at further reducing contact between people and stopping the spread of COVID-19.”

It added that by 11:59 pm Saturday, April 4, businesses that are not identified on this list must close their physical locations.

The update comes after the list was first released on Tuesday, March 24. At the time, cannabis and cannabis producers appeared on the list just after retail and wholesalers who provide bedding, food, and shelter to animals, and just before petrol stations.

This followed Canopy Growth’s announcement that it had closed all of its corporate-owned retail stores across the country, and a noted spike among some of Canada’s cannabis retailers, both attributed to coronavirus.

Quebec echoed its neighbour at the time. After ordering all non-essential businesses to close, exceptions were granted to a number of businesses, including grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, and, of course, the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQs) and Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDCs) — the provinces public booze and cannabis retailers.

BC and New Brunswick have also since followed suit and currently still list the cannabis industry as essential.

Ontario also does not permit private retailers to engage in online sales and home delivery, meaning that the only online seller permitted by the province is the Crown-owned Ontario Cannabis Store.

In a statement to Grow, the OCS said it will continue to provide service “despite the unique challenges of this situation.”

Cannabis was not mentioned specifically during the premier’s daily coronavirus update. Grow has reached out for comment from the province and will update accordingly.

Even as the OCS is allowed to continue filling cannabis orders, licenced producers were notably absent from the list of essential businesses. A move that could impact both short and long term supply of the product in Ontario.