Cannabis dispensaries rejoiced when they were labelled "essential" amid the coronavirus crisis. Now, the Ontario government has changed its mind.
The coronavirus crisis rages on across the globe, with over 1.2 million people cases reported and the numbers climbing exponentially each day.
Governments have asked citizens to self-isolate, locking themselves down to prevent further spreading of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. In addition to this, stores that are deemed "non-essential" are being required to close, to help mitigate the virus even further.
Initially, many cannabis dispensaries remained open, as they were deemed essential by state governments in most places that cannabis was legal.
Los Angeles deemed "cannabis dispensaries with a medicinal cannabis license" as "essential infrastructure" that is not required to close.
San Francisco followed suit, though initially, the state included cannabis businesses in the list of stores required to close. This decision was retracted a day later, with state officials saying that cannabis dispensaries could stay open provided they implemented certain measures to prevent crowding.
These measures generally involve dispensaries strongly urging their customers to use online platforms to purchase cannabis via delivery in order to minimize social interactions. Additionally, dispensaries are also regularly sanitizing surfaces as well as removing any example products or menus that are likely to be touched by high volumes of people.
The justification behind keeping dispensaries open was that cannabis is used by many for medical purposes, like reducing inflammation, minimizing chronic pain, and improving insomnia, and for these reasons, cannabis dispensaries should be seen in the same vein as pharmacies.
This argument proved fruitful, as the stores were indeed labelled essential, and dispensary owners were able to continue operating their businesses and continue providing cannabis medicines to those who still required them.
Though in Ontario, it's looking like it'll be a different story for many dispensary owners.
On Friday, the provincial government of Ontario announced that cannabis dispensaries would be removed from their list of essential businesses, with cannabis shops being legally ordered to close as of Saturday night. The closures will remain in place for a minimum of 14 days, but will likely go on much longer than that.
The only legal avenue for Ontario residents to continue procuring recreational cannabis will now be through online purchases at the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS), who will be the only licensed cannabis retailer remaining open during the closures.
According to the OCS's communications director Daffyd Roderick, the Ontario Cannabis Store will be implementing several measures to ensure the company can facilitate an increased volume of orders amid the pandemic. Firstly, the OCS will be operating on a 24/7 basis, and the store has announced that it will no longer be able to provide "same-day" shipping, given the marked increase in sales.
The news that only one dispensary would remain open has upset many dispensary owners, who feel that the Ontario government has now given a monopoly to the Ontario Cannabis Store, to the detriment of all other vendors. As a result, Wikileaf has begun a petition asking the Ontario Premier, Doug Ford, to reconsider his decision and allow other stores to operate similar online delivery services to the OCS.
The petition, which has currently been signed by over 2,600 people, aims to reach 5,000 signatures in order to show the Ontario Government precisely how harmful the move will be to dispensaries.
The petition states that "We believe Ford's measure, while being done under good intentions, is an overreaction and will do more harm than good to our local economy," and goes on to plead with supporters to sign the petition in order to "compel Ford to use his emergency powers so private cannabis businesses can continue to operate while still protecting the health of Ontarians."
Whether Premier Ford will reconsider his decision remains to be seen, but as for now, many cannabis dispensaries throughout Ontario will be forced to close.
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