The last 12 months in Canada have been something of a test case for legalization in other countries. Throughout the course of 2019, we’ve not only seen what a framework for legal cannabis looks like, but also how it has evolved from province to province, with each jurisdiction having its own rules in place when it comes to sales, distribution and licensing.
And while Alberta has been the big success story so far, Manitoba and Saskatchewan are making big moves in their own right. Thanks to their unique laws, the provinces are looking to be the first in the country to offer private cannabis delivery services.
Cannabis Delivery In Winnipeg
Cannabis delivery services are exactly what they sound like – much like a food delivery service (think Skip The Dishes), they connect customers with local retailers to facilitate home deliveries.
While popular in a number of US states, these services are only just starting to emerge in the Canadian market. Super Anytime is an app which will be available to customers in Winnipeg next month, allowing cannabis retailers to list their store and products, and giving users access to an online marketplace. The app connects with fulfillment vendors who carry out deliveries to the homes of customers (one of these vendors is Pineapple Express, a cannabis delivery service which already handles both B2B shipments and deliveries from government-run online stores).
If successful, the service could very well spread both to other cities in Manitoba, as well as to other provinces.
While Manitoba has been an early adopter, it’s hard to believe that there isn’t a demand for this kind of service in the rest of Canada.
Unfortunately, they are unique in that they are one of the few provinces to have a structure in place which allows for both private retailers and private online sales.
Under the current setup in Canada, the Cannabis Act lays out the legal and regulatory framework within the country, while giving the provinces and territories autonomy over distribution and sales within their respective jurisdictions.
As it stands, six out of the ten provinces (Manitoba, British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Alberta, Ontario, and Saskatchewan) allow private retailers to do business out of a brick and mortar location. The problem is that (in addition to strict regulations within their physical premises) these businesses are not allowed to conduct online transactions.
Customers can purchase online, however, they need to buy product directly through the provincial government.
Even the province of Alberta, which has been fairly hands-off with its retail systems, maintains a monopoly on online sales.
In addition to Manitoba, the only other exception to this so has been their neighbor to the west, as the Saskatchewan Liquor & Gaming Authority has also allowed private companies to sell online.
Other Cannabis Delivery Services
Because of their liberal, business-friendly policies, Manitoba and Saskatchewan are both prime real estate for newly emerging companies – including delivery services and the enterprises which help facilitate them.
In addition to Super Anytime in Manitoba (which will no doubt be looking at an expansion next door if its platform is successful), there’s also Westleaf Inc. The company’s retail operation Prairie Records currently has three physical stores in Saskatchewan, and gives its customers the option to buy online with same day delivery.
But while they may offer consumers quicker, easier access to cannabis, these up and coming delivery companies are still required to play by the rules. Super Anytime caps their orders at 30 grams, which reflects the legal possession limit in public. Pineapple Express also instructs their employees to check for ID upon delivery.
Cannabis Delivery Services In The US
While it’s certainly a first for Canada, the concept of a cannabis delivery service is nothing new. A number of US states with legal pot already have legislation in place that allow for such transactions.
Earlier this year, Colorado approved a bill allowing for home cannabis delivery (although the bill does give municipalities the option to opt out). And in 2017, Oregon began issuing permits to licensed retailers allowing them to deliver to customers homes.
But the biggest market currently going is California. With home deliveries legal everywhere in the state, there are over 150 licensed companies currently offering their services.
While not all legal states are onboard with the idea (at least, not yet), the idea of a delivery service for pot is a sector of the marker with huge growth potential. And given the massive growth of delivery services for consumer goods in general, the fact that the cannabis industry wants in on it isn’t exactly surprising.
A number of major players have already made inroads in the niche, with many believing that it represents the next major trend within the industry. As of 2016, 44% of American medical marijuana patients make use of delivery services.
And as legalization efforts ramp up in multiple US states and regulations slowly but surely start to ease, there’s no reason to believe that this trend won’t be embraced by the recreational industry as well.
The Black Market
One of the consequences of the kind of heavy-handed regulation we’ve seen thus far in Canada has been the persistence of black market cannabis.
Not only has the last year of legalization failed to get underground pot off of the market, we’ve also seen a number of unlicensed services thriving as well. One of the ways in which pot dealers can compete with the legal industry (in addition to selling their product at a much lower price point) is by continuing to offer services that the retail operations legally can’t – quick, easy deliveries to their customers home.
While their concern for keeping control over the sale of cannabis within their jurisdictions is completely justified, if the provinces really want to start making a dent in the black market, they would be well served to consider relaxing many of their regulations – and that may include following the lead of Manitoba and Saskatchewan and loosening up restrictions on what’s almost certain to be a red hot market going forward.
An earlier version of this article included information about Super Anytime acting as a cannabis delivery service that has partnered with Pineapple Express. Super Anytime is actually not a delivery service, but an online marketplace for cannabis retailers to show their products and stores, and to link up with fulfillment vendors. Pineapple Express is not one of their partners, but rather one of the vendors which provides the actual delivery service.