Low and Slow: A Tale of Online Recreational Pot Orders Across Canada
Canadians were eager to buy legal cannabis for recreational use online on Oct. 17, as government-run and privately operated pot portals were lit up with thousands of orders within the first 24 hours of legalization day.
However, the problems plaguing many of those initial orders such as delivery delays highlights the growing pains facing the newly legal market.
The Canadian Press tried to order the cheapest available gram or pre-roll of dried flower in each province and territory during the afternoon of Oct. 17. One order could not be completed and two had still yet to arrive more than one week later.
All websites required various age verification checks and most interfaces were easy to navigate, but the available product was low and delivery times were often slower than promised.
The fastest delivery was in Halifax where the bureau received its order within two days, while it took a full week before the order arrived in Iqaluit. The cheapest order including delivery was in Quebec at roughly $14 and the most expensive was in the Northwest Territories at more than $31.
Here’s how the pot order process rolled out across the country:
Delivery date: Still waiting
Shipping fee: $10 minimum
Cost: $8.99; $20.34 total cost
Cannabis NL’s website was clean and easy to navigate, but on Oct. 17 the options for a quick, low-cost gram were limited. The “shop” section advertised dried flower, oils, pre-rolled joints and plants, but most products were labelled “coming soon.” The product page was fairly informative with a breakdown of the plant’s THC and CBD levels, growing method and province of origin, as well as acceptable methods of use. Sorting by lowest to highest price, the most affordable flower was a hybrid plant called Island Pink from Emerald Health Therapeutics Canada. The “expedited parcel” shipping was the cheaper option, promising a delivery time between five and seven days. On the morning of Oct. 26, the product had not yet arrived and Cannabis NL sent customers an email that said “unexpected challenges with supply” are causing “unfortunate delays.” It added that suppliers have agreed to begin refunding the Xpresspost shipping fees for orders that do not arrive within the posted delivery times.
— Holly McKenzie-Sutter in St. John’s, N.L.
Prince Edward Island
Delivery date: Oct. 22
Shipping fee: $7
Cost: $7.83; $17.05 total cost including shipping
The P.E.I. Cannabis Corp. website greets you with a scenic Island landscape. The standard warnings flash “Start low. Go slow,” and various other catchy slogans. In product descriptions, some companies have opted to keep established illicit market names like “Diesel” while moved to establish their own names with strains like “Radiate”. The website allows users to sort by format, plant type, strength or brand, but not price. The package arrived Monday around 11:00 a.m. looking like anything else one would receive in the mail. FIGR’s No. 17 ground cannabis sealed in a red packet came with pamphlets about responsible smoking and a receipt. Though the website advertised THC totals of 9.99 to 17.00 percent and the description boasted levels of 21 percent, the physical product was marked with a total THC percentage just under 13 percent.
— Tony Davis in Charlottetown
Delivery date: Oct. 22
Shipping fee: $7
Cost: $10.50; $17.50 total cost including shipping
The ordering process was simple. Just click on a button to state you are over 19, set up an account, order the product and go to the checkout to give your credit card info. A confirmation page after the order is placed indicated that the order should arrive by Friday. However, the package did not arrive at the office — part of the legislature press gallery in a secure government building — until Monday morning. Another reporter signed for the delivery, but was not asked for ID to ensure he was over 19 years of age. However, he’s close to 50 and bald. Inside the large plastic Canada Post envelope was a packing slip and the small brown paper envelope containing the cannabis. The envelope had a label with the product information and the perforation at the top of the envelope had a Cannabis NB seal over it.
— Kevin Bissett in Fredericton
Delivery date: Oct. 19
Shipping fee: $6.09
Cost: $8.65; $16.95 total cost including shipping
The Halifax bureau attempted to order the least expensive brands of dried flower cannabis from the government operated Nova Scotia Liquor Corp. Cannabis site at 3 p.m. on legalization day, just hours after obtaining an identification number from a downtown store. The brands that ranged from $6.33 to just under $7.50 per gram were unavailable, according to the website’s search by price function. However, one gram of the Haven St. Mango Kush was available at $8.65. A Canada Post delivery agent arrived at the door of the office two days after the order and a colleague who hadn’t ordered the marijuana signed for it. The packaging included consumer information that suggested the user “start low and go slow” in using the marijuana, and noted the effects could last up to six hours.
— Michael Tutton in Halifax
Delivery date: Oct. 22
Shipping fee: $5
Cost: $8.50; $14.25 total cost including shipping
The Montreal bureau ordered one gram of Harmoniser — an indica strain from Aphria Inc. at 3 p.m. on Oct. 17. When the package arrived the following Monday at 10:15 a.m., the Canada Post delivery person asked for an employee’s signature at the door. The package gave no hint of what it contained, except for the “18+ signature” printed above the barcode. The delivery person did not request ID to confirm age upon delivery — but the person accepting the package looked more than 25 years old.
— Christopher Reynolds in Montreal
Delivery date: Still waiting
Shipping fee: $5.65
Cost: $10.40, $16.05 total cost including shipping
With no brick-and-mortar cannabis stores in Ontario until next spring at the earliest, Ontarians can only buy legal recreational pot online. Unlike some other provincial retail websites, the designers of the Ontario Cannabis Store seem to have strived for austerity. Devoid of colour, there are no stock photos, only an OCS logo and a message warning off those below the age of 19. Once inside, it’s all business. The user is sent straight to the product range, represented by photos of the packaging, making it unclear in some instances what exactly is on offer. After choosing one gram of Tangerine Dream from brand San Rafael for $10.40, the checkout process was quick and efficient. A shipping charge of $5.65 was added, bringing the total to $16.05, far above the black market price of less than $10 per gram. OCS said the product should arrive within one to three days, but the order has yet to arrive more than one week later.
— Jody White in Toronto
Delivery date: Oct. 22 (double checking)
Shipping fee: $7.95
Cost: $12, $21.59 total cost including shipping
Winnipeg‘s Delta 9 Cannabis Store website is easy to navigate and advertises same-day delivery in the city, but the shelves of the online store were nearly empty. Of the 11 dried cannabis strains, eight were sold out. Most of the strains left were only sold in larger quantities (five grams for $60 or 10 grams for $120) and only one offered smaller quantities (DNA Genetics Lemon Skunk for $12 a gram). There were also smoking tools and accessories for sale including papers, lighters, vaporizers and cannabis cook books. Despite the website saying American Express was an accepted payment, after an hour in an online help chat and on the phone with employees and the bank, the only suggestion was use a different card. It took five days of waiting for it to show. It arrived in an unnecessarily large plastic container in a giant bubble-wrap envelope. It looked large for a gram but, much like a Prairie tumbleweed, it was not dense and extremely dry.
— Kelly Geraldine Malone in Winnipeg
Delivery date: Online orders were not available on Oct. 17
Those looking to buy cannabis online from Jimmy’s Cannabis were out of luck on legalization day. A message on its website on Oct. 17 said it held back on online sales due to discussions between Health Canada and Canada Post, Jimmy’s shipping provider. Upon accessing its website, the user was asked to put in their date of birth. The website itself was both clean and trendy with a video playing above a header that said “Welcome to Jimmy’s.” There were five options at the top including flower, oil, accessories, apparel and a drop down with contact information, locations, about the company and the online shop. Upon clicking the online shop option, there were flowers, oil, pre-roll and accessories. However, on Oct. 22, Jimmy’s said in a post on its website that it was unable to open its e-commerce store “due to inventory shortages.” On Oct. 26, online cannabis sales were still unavailable.
— Ryan McKenna in Regina
Delivery date: Oct. 19
Shipping fee: $9.95
Cost: $9.24 before tax, $20.15 total cost including shipping
After a few simple questions to verify age — Alberta‘s site checks submitted answers against provincial databases — users are taken to the product page. Only plain white packages are shown. Each product entry provides THC content and whether it’s a sativa, indica or a hybrid. Strawberry Ice, $9.24 a gram, is described as “fun and fruity,” and “perfect for making the most of a sunny summer day.” The site won’t allow you to ship to a different address than the one provided for age verification. On Wednesday, the site offered 73 different types of dried flower from 24 different growers. By mid-afternoon, six were out of stock. It had four kinds of pre-rolled joints, two of which were gone by 3 p.m. Its only oil offering was also gone. The site was clean and classy, with lots of Alberta scenery and no psychedelia. You could be buying tires. The most expensive per-gram offering cost $14.95. The cannabis arrived Friday afternoon, two days after it was ordered, and picture identification with a current address was required.
— Bob Weber in Edmonton
Delivery date: Oct. 24
Shipping fee: roughly $9
Cost: $16.99; $27.29 total cost including shipping
As an online customer in Nunavut, you become accustomed to a lack of options, all of which are expensive, and a sense of relief for even just getting an online order through. Internet speeds and access are far below national averages. Pot is no different. The government’s website says you can only buy from the approved vendor list, which contains one entry: Canopy Growth Corp., whose brand name is Tweed. To verify your age, you enter your date of birth and confirm you are not ordering from a shared device. Tweed offered four options — only dried flowers — in various quantities: one indica, two sativa and one hybrid. All but two options were sold out. With shipping, one gram of Lemon Skunk came to $27.29. Seven days later, postal workers deposited a package slip into a P.O. Box. It’s a short ATV ride to the postal warehouse. There, a worker said half the warehouse is full of pot orders.
— Thomas Rohner in Iqaluit
Delivery date: Still waiting
Shipping fee: $12.47
Cost: $17.50; $31.47 total cost including shipping
The Northwest Territories’ cannabis website was simple and easily navigated, though creating an account took 15 minutes longer than anticipated as a verification email took time to arrive. There were only seven items available, offering five strains in various sizes. Despite the territory’s pledge that cannabis prices would start at around $8.50 per gram, the cheapest one-gram package available online on legalization day cost $31.47. The total price included $17.50 for a gram of the Rockstar strain (one of two strains available in one-gram packages, identically priced), $1.50 in tax, and $12.47 in shipping to Yellowknife. The territory’s website stated proof of age would be required upon delivery. The package was shipped on Oct. 24 according to an email from the NWT website — well within standard time for anything to arrive. By the morning of Oct. 26, the package had not yet been delivered.
— Ollie Williams with Cabin Radio in Yellowknife
Delivery date: Oct. 23
Shipping fee: $12 expedited shipping
Cost: $15.94; $29.34 total cost including shipping.
The Cannabis Yukon website has an age verification process and a question about whether you are intoxicated. The scheduled website launch on Oct. 17 at 11 a.m. ran into a technical glitch, and didn’t go live until just before 12:30 p.m. At 3 p.m., it took a few tries through a couple of different computers before being able to access the site. The website showed pictures of happy people in various settings such as around a kitchen table or a campfire with direct links to various cannabis types. The website offers value, core and premium pricing, ranging from just over $10 to $155. The cheapest pre-rolled cannabis was $15.94. The only choice was expedited shipping, costing $12 — almost as much as the joint itself. The package didn’t arrive until Tuesday about 11 a.m. and delivery required identification and a signature, even though they did get my name wrong.
— Tim Kucharuk with CKRW in Whitehorse
Delivery date: Oct. 26
Shipping fee: $10
Cost: $8.99 before tax. $21.27 total cost including shipping
It took less than 15 minutes to complete an online order for one gram of marijuana at B.C. Cannabis Stores. To enter the B.C. cannabis website, users must confirm they are 19 years or older by providing their date of birth. There were about eight cannabis product for sale on legalization day in prices ranging from $6.99 per gram to $11.99 per gram. The cheapest brands of cannabis at $6.99 were already sold out just hours after the online store went live. Tangerine Dream at $8.99 a gram was still available. The total price, including a $10 shipping charge, taxes and the one gram of cannabis, was $21.27. On Oct. 20, the B.C. Liquor Distribution branch said it was “working hard to ship every order as quickly as possible” but “slight delays” meant rather than the estimated delivery period of up to two business days, the order would be shipped from the warehouse on Oct. 22. The order was picked up at a neighbourhood Canada Post outlet on the morning of Oct. 26. Packaged in a small, blue cardboard box, it included details about the strain, the THC and CBD content and a warning label, “Cannabis smoke is harmful.”
— Dirk Meissner in Victoria
Armina Ligaya, The Canadian Press