Private cannabis retailers can now offer online payment, in-store pick up

You can now pay for your pot online, but you still have to pick it up from a private retailer — at least for now.

The province announced more changes this week to private cannabis sales amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Private cannabis stores will now be able to accept payment for non-medical cannabis products online and the province is also accepting private proposals for delivery.

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“We’ve heard from legal cannabis retailers that they want more tools to help increase competitiveness with the illegal market by allowing online sales,” Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said in a press release. “By offering online sales for cannabis products, we can support the growth of a vibrant, legal cannabis industry, while also keeping public safety as our top priority."

During the pandemic, the province had loosened rules to allow online reservation of products. However, customers still had to go into stores to pay for and pick up their purchases. The Association of Canadian Cannabis Retailers called on the province to go further in loosening the rules. It asked the province to modify cannabis retail regulations to allow private retailers to accept online payments and make door-to-door deliveries. The association argued online payments would allow customers to avoid contamination points and reduce in-store contact, helping to curb spread of the novel coronavirus.

It also said deliveries would accommodate customers who are unable to leave their homes, due to quarantine or being immunocompromised.

A private retailer in Kamloops also raised questions about whether or not a provincial monopoly of online cannabis sales is fair to private retailers, as BC Cannabis Stores — the government’s cannabis retailer — has been the sole retailer to allow online sales and delivery.

The attorney general’s office said it would now allow online sales, but in-store pickup is still required in order to allow employees to check identification. However, the province said it is “considering proposals” from private retailers for delivery.

“Any potential relaxation of the existing delivery prohibition for private retailers would need to maintain strict standards preventing youth access to cannabis,” the press release stated.

The new rules will allow payment for non-medical cannabis to be made via website, app or telephone. Retailers with multiple stores will also now be able to accept gift cards at any of its locations or online, a shift from rules that limited gift cards to be used at the store from which they were purchased.

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