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COVID-19 and the Impact on the Cannabis Industry
Keeping Up With Cannabis

Cannabis retail outlets, producers, manufacturers, distributors and warehouses were deemed to be essential services by the Alberta Government on March 30, 2020. As a result, cannabis businesses and services can and have continued to serve Albertans throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. While open for business, cannabis businesses should ensure that they are implementing appropriate safety measures to protect the health and well-being of their customers and staff.

According to Statistics Canada, Alberta cannabis sales have increased since the pandemic, where the total amount of cannabis sold in Alberta increased notably in March and increased again (though to a smaller degree) in April and May.

On a national level, only the province of Ontario recorded more cannabis sales than Alberta during the first four months of 2020, which is understandable when considering that Ontario is home to approximately 10 million more Canadians than Alberta. According to Statistics Canada, Alberta had the highest amount of cannabis sales in Canada for April and May.

Online Sales in Alberta

Unlike Ontario, the Alberta Government is not permitting cannabis stores to make deliveries directly to customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Alberta, only cannabis products purchased from the Alberta Government website, AlbertaCannabis.org, are permitted to be delivered directly to a customer’s residence.

While AlbertaCannabis.org is offering “services as usual”, their website lists a number of issues for customers to keep in mind when purchasing cannabis online as a result of the disruptions caused by COVID-19:

  • You may experience shipping delays whether you choose to use Canada Post or Purolator
  • Canada Post is changing some shipping procedures and operating hours, and
  • Purolator is changing some shipping procedures.

As a result of some of the delays currently existing for online delivery of cannabis in Alberta and other disruptions caused by COIV-19, Canada Post has adjusted some of their policies with respect to cannabis deliveries:

  • For customers picking up their cannabis delivery at a Canada Post Office, the requirement to provide proof of age at the postal outlet within the normal 15-day hold period has been suspended. Parcels left at the post office for pickup will not be returned to sender until further notice.
  • Hours of service at postal outlets are currently reduced, opening one hour later and closing one hour earlier to allow Canada Post to clean, restock and provide employees with relief.

In addition, Purolator has announced that, in an effort to reduce person to person contact, Purolator is waiving the requirement for customer signatures upon delivery. Purolator delivery personnel will still be verifying a customer’s identification when making a cannabis delivery - from a safe distance.

Retail Cannabis Stores – Tips for maintaining health and safety

As noted above, the market demand for retail cannabis in Alberta has remained strong during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, and in the spirit of maintaining physical distancing in an effort to flatten the curve, cannabis businesses in Alberta are required to have proper safety measures in place to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Here are a few tips to help your cannabis business succeed in these trippy times:

  1. Reduce the amount of contact between staff and customers and encourage physical distancing:
    • consider temporarily suspending customer loyalty cards to reduce staff to customer contact
    • structural controls (place barriers between the staff and customers)
    • consider temporarily removing iPad or other electronic tablets displaying product information and replacing them with a notice board or other touch free screens to reduce conduct
    • provide staff with personal protective equipment (ex. gloves, masks and eye protection)
    • maintain a two metre separation between all staff and customers, and if possible place reference markers on the floor, and
    • consider setting specific times for at-risk patrons, such as seniors to help keep those customers most vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19 safe.
       
  2. Promote and facilitate proper and frequent hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette for staff and customers:
    • instruct staff to wash their hands for 20 seconds with soap and water regularly or even better, after each cannabis sale, and
    • place posters around your business reminding staff and patrons to wash their hands (not mandatary but strongly encouraged). Alberta Health Services has a number of posters and signed that you can use. Click here to see more information.
       
  3. Implement a procedure for increased cleaning and disinfecting of common areas:
    • disinfect the display case after each customer
    • ensure that disposable wipes or disposable hand towels and spray are available to staff and customers
    • sanitize point of sale machines after each customer, and
    • remove all common items that cannot be cleaned easily (magazines, newspapers, promotional materials, etc.).

Cannabis businesses looking to discuss COVID-19 related health and safety measures are invited to call contact Christin Elawny at 403-260-8583. In addition, Cannabis businesses looking for more information on how to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic are encouraged to visit Field Law’s COVID-19 Portal to access additional information such as:

Field Law’s Cannabis Industry Group offers a wide range of services for the cannabis industry. If you have questions about starting a cannabis business, we are happy to help. Please contact Mark Mielke at 403-260-8503 for more information. For more information on issues related to employees and the workplace, please contact Christin Elawny at 403-260-8583.

 

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