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Coronavirus: Cannabis retailers plead with Ontario to allow reopening in lockdown zones


They’re considered essential but you will not find anyone inside pot shops in Toronto and Peel Region, the provinces two lockdown zones.

“All we’re asking for is an opportunity to do right by our customers in the community, have a consistent playing field and, you know, honestly, if the government was running cannabis stores, I wonder if they’d be open today like the liquor and beer stores,” said Sam Vanverveer, the vice-president at Sessions Cannabis in Toronto.

Read more: Ontario budget: OLG expected to see $2.1B drop in revenue, cannabis sales jump

The cannabis industry is reaching out to the province asking elected officials to reconsider shuttering storefronts. Only curbside pickup and delivery is available during the 28-day lockdown period — unlike the LCBO, which is also deemed essential where a customer can walk into a retail store.

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“For the government to be granting sort of privileges to its own corporation, and other private retailers don’t have the same opportunities or can’t distinguish themselves — it’s setting people up for failure,” said Caryma S’ad, a Toronto-based Cannabis lawyer.

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There is concern cannabis customers will end up under served.

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“People who aren’t regular consumers may in fact be relying on bud tenders or people in the store to help them make a selection and that’s just not possible or delivery except to the extent you can talk over the phone,” added S’ad.

To keep up, shops have been cutting staff, investing in logistical programs and hiring delivery drivers.

Read more: Black market cannabis linked to organized crime being exported to U.S. from Canada: OPP

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“I think they have to earn their stripes a little bit,” said Richard Powers, an associate professor at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. “At some point, maybe they can be declared like the LCBO. The LCBO has been in business for a long time; they’ve shown that they can operate safely.”

Those with skin in the game say their business models weren’t built for curbside or delivery.

“Let’s be fair. Let’s recognize that there should be one essential service message to the public,” added Vanverveer.

The Ontario Cannabis Store, which offers online-only shopping, is predicted to see $80 million in revenue between 2020 and 2021.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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