Toronto cannabis stores are busier than ever amid the COVID-19 pandemic
It's been a while since we've seen huge lineups outside pot shops in Toronto — nearly one year, in fact, since brick-and-mortar retail cannabis stores were first authorized to open in Ontario, drawing huge crowds on opening day and for at least a few weeks after that.
With the 2019 novel coronavirus ripping through our city, our province, our country and the world, many local businesses have either slowed down or shuttered completely as shoppers self-isolate.
Not weed stores.
Customers lining up for cannabis today in Toronto without acceptable social distancing. Come on people! This is dangerous to everyone's health and needs to stop. @JohnTory pic.twitter.com/Esei4BxOyf— Dr. Brett Belchetz (@brettbel) March 21, 2020
Deemed "essential" by Ontario's provincial government earlier this week, cannabis retailers continue to sell their wares legally — and prolifically — all over the city.
With demand for marijuana skyrocketing in light of the coronavirus pandemic and businesses implementing limits on the amount of customers in any store at one time, we're starting to see larger-than-normal lineups form outside weed stores in downtown Toronto once again.
My local weed store here in Toronto suddenly has a non-stop lineup that goes right round the outside of the building.— Nick van der Graaf 🎥 (@vandergraafly) March 20, 2020
Higher cannabis sales are being reported across the board locally, according to the Ontario Cannabis Store's director of communications, Daffyd Roderick.
"The last two weeks have seen a marked increase in sales volume on OCS.ca and a high demand for our same day/next day delivery option where available," says Roderick. "Some authorized retail stores are also reporting an increase in customer volume."
Last Sunday, the OCS saw a 100 per cent increase in order volume over the previous week, and on Monday, March 23, the province's official cannabis retailer broke a new record for the most activity in a single day (excluding the launch of legalization) with 7,200 orders placed.
An increase in demand for pot from bored quaranteenies isn't the only thing bringing on long queues again, however — store policies are playing just as much a role.
We're still open. We're committed to providing a safe experience for our customers and employees. Additional sanitization measures have been put in place to reduce the impact of COVID-19. Read our full post on store hours, online shopping and more: https://t.co/zaC96fKwzt pic.twitter.com/UaKBlnC1U8— Meta Cannabis Co. (@themetaco) March 18, 2020
The first-ever legal cannabis store to open in Toronto, The Hunny Pot, has put strict safety measures into place for both its staff and customers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including a new "click and collect" model that allows people to order online and pick up their product at one of two dedicated stores.
"Because of this new service, the store has the ability to reduce the number of people in the store at all times, while still providing customers with convenient access to products," said the company's spokesperson, Cameron Brown.
Brown also noted that The Hunny Pot is "encouraging social distancing by only allowing a very, very limited number of customers in the store at a time and asking that customers waiting outside respect each other's space as well."
This appears to be par for the course not only for weed stores, but for supermarkets and the LCBO as well.
@CP24 check out the line up outside of the cannabis store. There’s no #SocialDistancing happening here. #FlattenTheCuve #COVIDActNow pic.twitter.com/g68TC8WfdP— Le Luong (@leluong8) March 23, 2020
It stands to reason that, as more and more people self-isolate on the recommendations of public health officials, wait times will go down quickly.
Many cannabis stores have now in fact launched click-and-collect services as a way to lessen contact time between staff and customers, and are implementing line distancing strategies.
Tokyo Smoke, for instance, has implemented physical distancing measures with red lanterns on the floor to show customers what a safe distance is. When a line forms outside, the business will send a dedicated Tokyo Smoke Educator to ensure guests follow the two-metre rule.
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