Regulation Woes: Ontario Cannabis Laws
Ontario, Canada was the second-to-last province to allow brick-and-mortar cannabis retailers in their territory. Since then, Ontario has experienced a shaky start to Canada’s legalization of recreational marijuana. From data breaches to delivery delays to bug-infested flower nugs, Ontario’s cannabis consumers have been left high and dry by the state.
Canada’s Struggling to Keep Up
Investors have dumped millions into Canada’s marijuana market, but problems rolling out regulations and licenses have put consumers in a tough spot. In Ontario, strong regulations stalled license approval of 25 pot shops. Chosen through a lottery system, these dispensaries will be supplied by the government-run Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS). Pending the opening of retail stores in April, consumers can buy their weed online through the OCS at the moment.
Although Ontario doesn’t put a cap on the number of retail locations available in its territory, municipalities are allowed to opt out of the cannabis retail market leaving some areas with restricted cannabis access. With 77 dry communities total, Ontario makes it hard for cannabis consumers to purchase products legally. Plans to monopolize e-commerce may also hurt retailers in the long run but are an attempt to make consumer purchasing easier.
Ontario’s cannabis consumers also experienced significant delivery delays at the rollout due to labeling mix-ups according to the OCS. The OCS offered no further explanation or solution to the problem. After more than a month of delays, the OCS went back to their original delivery time of 1-3 days. Ontario’s ombudsman received over 1,000 complaints that involved delivery delays, communication issues, and billing problems.
To make matters worse, Ontario experienced a privacy breach on November 1 exposing customer data of 4,500 customers including names, addresses, and order information. The breach was made by an individual that used OCS reference numbers to access information. The vulnerability in the Canada Post’s online package tracking system did not reveal financial information but exposed a big security flaw.
Bug and Mold Infestation
If delivery issues and privacy breaches weren’t enough, RedeCan Pharm, an Ontario cannabis producer, voluntarily recalled over 900 ounces of cannabis product after customers complained that their flower contained mold. Although no customers reported any negative side effects, smoking contaminated cannabis can make certain conditions worse.
Other customers also spotted tiny bugs in their flower from the same company. Unlike their response to the mold found in the cannabis flower, the OCS wouldn’t issue a recall for the bug-infested nugs. Some bugs are used to stave off spider mite outbreaks during cultivation to avoid using harsh pesticides but aren’t typically found in the end product.
Ontario’s government-run retail market has shown to be stifling retail growth and patient access. When competing with the black market, especially in dry communities, Ontario and other Canadian provinces struggle with supply shortages and onerous regulations. Customers will have to wait until April 1, 2019 when cannabis retail shops open in Ontario to see any improvements, if any, are made.