Cannabis Update: Ontario Sales Rise in Face of Coronavirus

For those of us who keep an eye on the cannabis industry, one of the major questions of the moment is: Will the global coronavirus pandemic help or hurt cannabis sales? As of mid-March, it’s far too early to offer a definitive answer.

But if the examples of some Canadian provinces are any guide, things are looking up, at least for dispensary operators. The demand for cannabis there is experiencing an “unprecedented” surge; here’s what we currently know.

Cannabis and Coronavirus: Virus Sparking an 80% Jump In Sales?

Compared with the previous week, sales at Ontario’s government-owned online cannabis store jumped a mind-boggling 80%. While it’s likely that much of the jump can be attributed to some recent price corrections designed to make the store more competitive, the rise in demand is noteworthy. In particular, the demand for same-day and next-day delivery underscores the sense of urgency at this particular moment.

In much of Canada, provinces have monopolies on e-commerce cannabis sales and delivery. Through a click-and-collect program, customers can also buy cannabis online and pick up their orders in physical shop locations.

For authorized brick-and-mortar outlets, the demand was no less intense. According to Marijuana Business Daily, Saturday, March 14, saw roughly 3,000 orders from such outlets, an 80% increase compared with the previous Saturday. At the Toronto location of Sessions Cannabis, a Canadian dispensary chain, sales associates recorded a roughly 10% increase in transactions, a 10% increase in order value, and roughly 21% overall sales growth compared with the previous week.

In the neighboring Province of Québec, a spokesman for the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC) reported that sales had increased there as well, though he declined to provide figures. And unsurprisingly, he counseled all Quebecers to take advantage of the province’s online sale and delivery option, particularly if they had recently returned from overseas travel or were experiencing flu-like symptoms.

Cannabis and Coronavirus: Looking Ahead to Involuntary Closures?

Cannabis Update Ontario Sales Rise in Face of Coronavirus
Like you, we’re curious as to what effect the pandemic will have moving forwards. If the unprecedented shelter-in-place rules—such as the ones that went into effect for six Bay Area counties on March 16—become more commonplace, even online sales of cannabis will be affected.

As of midday on March 16th, the regulations regarding dispensaries remained in flux. According to a statement from the mayor’s office, medical dispensaries qualify as essential services, while adult-use ones do not. That said, at least one dispensary serving medical cannabis patients had been ordered to close, along with all adult-use dispensaries.

The following day, March 17th, dispensaries won a reprieve, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. Now, along with all other medical services, they will be permitted to operate during the three weeks of the shelter-in-place rules.
We’ll keep you updated on the developing effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the cannabis industry.