Should cannabis retailers remain open?

Published on March 18, 2020 by David Wylie

As COVID-19 spreads, is it prudent for cannabis retailers to close their doors?

Canada’s biggest weed company says yes.

On Tuesday, Canopy Growth announced it was temporarily closing corporate-owned retail amid the pandemic.

Based on the guidance given by public health bodies, Canopy Growth’s executive has made the decision to temporarily close all corporate-owned Tokyo Smoke and Tweed retail locations across Canada.

“We have a responsibility to our employees, their families, and our communities to do our part to ‘flatten the curve’ by limiting social interactions. For us, that means shifting our focus from retail to e-commerce,” said Canopy Growth CEO David Klein.

“This is a big decision but it was also an easy one to make – our retail teams are public-facing and have been serving an above-average volume of transactions in recent days. Given the current situation, it is in the best interest of our teams and our communities to close these busy hubs until we are confident we can operate our stores in the best interest of public health.”

The decision affects the 23 stores in Newfoundland, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, as well as the Tweed Visitor Centre in Smiths Falls, Ont.

Open for business

A state of emergency has been called in B.C., Alberta and Ontario, as governments urge people to stay home to prevent the spread of the virus.

However, in all three provinces many cannabis stores remain open—including government stores.

BC Cannabis Store locations remain open throughout the province. On Thursday, the BC Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB), which operates the provincial pot retailer, announced reduced hours of operation.

“These changes will allow … staff to complete additional store cleaning in the off hours, to minimize risk to our employees and customers, and help stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” said the LDB.

“As you may know, increased volume of sales and customers has led to challenges in stocking and restocking shelves. The reduced hours will allow staff to receive and safely stock product and ensure availability for customers as LDB has been experiencing staffing shortages as some staff self-isolate.”

BC Cannabis Stores are implementing more frequent processes for cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched areas, including door handles, cash register countertops, pin pads, and sniff pods.

The LDB had previously asked customers to keep their distance.

“Store customers lining up for service are asked to respect one another’s personal space and practice ‘social distancing,’ the maintaining of a physical buffer of two metres from others (where possible),” Blain Lawson GM and CEO of the LCB said in a statement.

“Our highest priority continues to be the health and safety of our customers, employees and those in our supply chain network including wholesale customers, manufacturers, suppliers and delivery partners.”

Recognizing cannabis is medicine, some U.S. locations such as San Francisco have declared cannabis stores to be an essential service.

Private retailers who have stayed open have been reaping the reward as consumers stock up for what could be a long period of isolation.

Online opportunities

Ordering online is an option, but you’ll still have to go out to collect the package.

Canada Post has made changes to its delivery methods as a result of COVID-19. It will no longer be delivering packages that require proof of identity or a signature to customers’ doors.

“Customers ordering from BC Cannabis Stores online will be required to collect their orders from a post office location in order to provide proof of identity and signature,” says the postal service.