Leaders of Canada’s cannabis industry are pleading with the federal government for help to curb the damage the coronavirus pandemic is having on the sector.
Cannabis companies are currently left out of the federal government’s $82 billion stimulus package, something Rick Savone, SVP Global Government Relations for Aurora Cannabis Inc, hopes will change sooner rather than later.
“Those measures the government has announced, albeit early measures, still don’t seem to exclude many people but they definitely exclude the cannabis industry,” Savone said, adding Aurora Cannabis alone employs nearly 3,000 people.
“Were in a crisis where there’s no more time to deliberate these things,” he said.
One of the measures preventing cannabis companies from accessing the funds in the stimulus package involves some companies having too many employees to be considered a small business. That’s not the only issue, however.
“It’s not just an issue of the size of the company … it’s just that cannabis companies appear to be shut out completely from Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) support, Export Development Canada (EDC), and now Farm Credit Canada (FCC) also,” Savone said. “Cannabis is the sector of 2020, it’s the sector of the future.”
As to why cannabis companies have been excluded from the stimulus package, Savone explained it could be partly to do with old rules and regulations banks and other organizations are governed by.
He said the focus remains on keeping employees in the cannabis sector safe and off EI.
However, if things don’t change with respect to access to the stimulus package funding, Savone said it will mark a big win for the cannabis black market.
“If for any reason something happens to the cannabis sector where there are job losses or other things that happen to companies in our sector, then the increase of that space will be delivered directly to the black market and everybody loses in that case,” Savone said.
A letter sent by the Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the cannabis industry implored the government to include the cannabis sector in the stimulus package.
“We’re not at the end game yet and as this crisis gets more complicated every day we’ve seen the government has shown a great willingness to provide whatever is necessary for the economy and for society to barrel through this,” Savone said.
“We’re just hoping they get to us sooner rather than later.”
ONTARIO CANNABIS STORE SALES SURGE AMID COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Ontarians stuck indoors trying to curb the spread of COVID-19 have been flocking to the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS), leading to all-time high sales numbers.
“Over the last week-and-a-half we’ve seen sales slowly ramping up to the point where we were essentially double the number of orders over the last six or seven days than what we’ve had historically online,” Daffyd Roderick, of the OCS, told TheToronto Sun.
The number of orders hit an all-time high on March 23 with 7,200 orders made within a 24-hour period — the highest on record outside of legalization day, Roderick explained.
New visitors to the site and first-time users trying out what is on offer at the OCS are fuelling the record numbers.
“We’re seeing a lot of first-time visitors and purchasers through the site,” Roderick said. “We’re seeing people who haven’t come to the site who are purchasing and then we’re seeing a fair volume of those first-time users come back and purchase again.”
Despite the coronavirus wreaking havoc on Canadian society and it’s economy, so far there are no supply issues.
“We’ve seen no impact from the licensed producers, they’ve been able to deliver exactly what they promised to deliver and they continue to make deliveries on a daily basis,” Roderick said.
Roderick said changes have been made to how cannabis products are delivered.
“You don’t have to touch anything,” Roderick said, explaining when an online order is delivered to your home, the delivery agent will be wearing a mask and gloves.
“If you have a glass door you can show (your identification) through the glass door … the agent doesn’t take the I.D. from your hand,” Roderick said. “At your request, they will hand you your product or drop it at your door.”
While the OCS is busy filling the increased number of orders, Roderick said they are all being processed “quickly.”