Chris Campbell is among Nelson’s cannabis entrepreneurs praising what she calls some overdue good news from the provincial government.
Campbell, who owns The Potorium in downtown Nelson, said the June 17 announcement from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General allowing licensed retailers to deliver their own products is a welcome change.
“I think it’s fabulous,” said Campbell. “We’ve been having customers request this service and haven’t really understood why it’s not available. So they’ve been frustrated. I’m very happy we get to offer it to them now.”
The change, which takes effect July 15, comes with some limitations. Only store staff can make deliveries — Canada Post and third-party delivery companies are ruled out — and businesses still won’t have the online mail-to option that province-run stores have.
But the addition of delivery, even if they have to make it themselves, earned high marks from Nelson’s four private retail stores.
Campbell said delivery will help her serve disabled clients, and provide a little more privacy to customers who are leery about visiting her storefront on Baker Street.
“It’s an element of discretion,” she said. “Even though we’re legal, there’s still a segment of our customers who just don’t want to be seen coming in the store.”
Kootenay Cannabis Tree owner Jim Leslie said he has clients with mobility issues who have previously asked for the option. He added he’s also had customers nervous about entering his store during the pandemic.
“Any option to allow sales outside of the confines of the store environment is positive and should allow us to, hopefully, come out of the COVID restrictions in a faster method and put us in a better place.”
The update is the latest in a gradual opening of the fledgling industry, which was heavily regulated when cannabis was federally legalized in October 2018. The last change was in August 2020 when B.C. began allowing retailers to sell their products online, although that was still limited by requiring customers to visit stores for pick-up.
Buddy’s Place manager Cora Muellner said she wished the option to deliver had been made earlier in the pandemic. Delivery was a popular solution for local businesses when they were unable to stay open during the initial lockdown.
“It’s not particularly timely, because it would have been more helpful during the lockdown,” said Muellner.
“But I think it just now means it opens up more culture around our industry where we can actually be able to service people in a bit more of a normal way.”
The ministry also removed the necessity for new employees to go through security verification.
Muellner said her own clearance took two months, and that her business has lost potential hires because applicants couldn’t wait that long to be employed. Campbell added some employees have also waited for clearance, only to be employed for a short time and not be a good fit.
In its announcement, the public safety ministry had said more than 7,000 prospective workers had been screened since 2018. None of those people, it added, had links to organized crime.
“It’s nice to see it end because there really, in my estimation, was no threat to the operations of retail cannabis stores from organized crime through the hiring process of frontline staff,” said Leslie.
Katie Sullivan, manager of The Green Room, said she hopes the next update includes changes to restrictions on dosage and possession.
Currently, adults ages 19 and older can only carry up to 30 grams of dried non-medical cannabis in public, which in turn limits what stores can sell customers per day. Edibles, which were legalized in October 2019, are also still limited to 10 milligrams of THC per package.
Sullivan said local customers have also raised concerns about packaging.
“Nelson especially, people are pretty environmentally conscious,” she said. “And it’s hard to leave the store without buying plastic, which is unfortunate. So I wish they would do something about that.”
For the meantime, however, there’s optimism about the changes coinciding with an impending end to COVID-19 restrictions.
“We’re excited about the policy,” said Leslie. “I read the email just a few hours ago and thought, OK, great, good way to start the summer.”
Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.