Making legal cannabis more accessible directs consumers from illegal to legal retailers

During the COVID-19 state of emergency, cannabis retail has been declared an essential service across Canada. In response, provincial governments and the cannabis industry collaborated quickly to provide safe access to cannabis in each province. In Ontario, cannabis retail was removed from the list of essential services, but added again within a few days, allowing for delivery and curbside pick up.

Fire & Flower, Merrco Payments, and RCU partnered to understand how consumers are adjusting to the new ways to buy cannabis, and the effect that it’s having on the industry as a whole. Through a cross-country digital campaign run by RCU between April 30, and May 16, users were engaged in a quiz to assess what they knew about access to legal cannabis in their province.

Overall, the themes were clear:

Over 75% did not know that cannabis retailers were operating during the pandemic, and over half (58%) did not know how to tell legal operators from illegal ones.

The legal industry is still trailing behind the illegal industry, as clearly seen in the comments in this article by BlogTO. The post shares 8 legal options for curbside pick up, and the comments direct readers to two illegal options. “Consumers that want to buy illegally can find information about illegal options much easier than consumers who want to buy legally. Continuing to inform consumers about legal options in their region is a key priority for us and our partners.” said Afshin Mousavian, CEO of RCU.

21% did not know that curbside and same day delivery were available from legal retailers.

Of those, 1 out of 5 said they’ll continue to purchase from illegal operators, and 4 out of 5 said they wished they were informed of the availability of delivery and curbside options from legal operators. Once again this highlights the legal industry’s challenging restrictions which limit its ability to connect with consumers wanting to purchase from legal sources.

When it came to preferred methods of legal purchase, 40% chose home delivery.

The results show that home delivery is strongly preferred over pick up from the post office (10%), curbside (15%), and reserve online and pick up in store (5%).

“Consumers need to access legal cannabis in a way that is convenient and comfortable for them or they will continue to purchase from illegal sources, posing a risk to public safety and undermining the true intent of legalization”, says Trevor Fencott, CEO of Fire & Flower. “It is more critical than ever that Ontario establish a regulatory regime that fosters a fair and competitive market capable of effectively competing against illicit actors on price, product differentiation, quality and convenience.

Over 70% agree that “making legal cannabis more accessible will help direct more consumers from illegal to legal”.

This has been a point that the industry has been sharing all along. Convenience plays a large role in consumer purchasing decisions and the illegal market has become more convenient after legalization.

Conclusion

The numbers show that although many Canadians are still purchasing from the illegal market due to its flexibility, these new ways to purchase cannabis are moving people towards the legal cannabis industry. The response to legal cannabis delivery, online ordering, and curbside pick up has been welcomed by cannabis consumers. It’s clear that providing Canadians with safer and more convenient options while increasing visibility and awareness are strong weapons in the fight against the illegal cannabis market. Provincial  governments should continue to allow businesses to make these options available to Canadians, so that after the state of emergency is lifted the cannabis industry is set up to successfully battle the illegal cannabis market.

Upon seeing the survey results, Fern Glowinsky, President & CEO of Merrco Payments commented, “Merrco is dedicated to enabling payment solutions for legal, compliant, licensed cannabis retailers and producers. Allowing for additional legal methods of sale and payment, leveling the playing field with the legacy market, is the right choice for government. Now more than ever, while we collectively fight the COVID-19 pandemic, all businesses are seeking ways to offer safe supply and payment options to help protect consumers. Extending legal options for sale and payment supports growth and the massive investments made across the legal cannabis sector.”

Download the RCU Survey Results

About Fire & Flower

Fire & Flower is a leading purpose-built, independent adult-use cannabis retailer poised to capture significant Canadian market share. The Company guides consumers through the complex world of cannabis through education-focused, best-in-class retailing while the Hifyre™ digital platform connects consumers with cannabis products. The Company's leadership team combines extensive experience in the cannabis industry with strong capabilities in retail operations.

About Merrco Payments Inc.

Merrco is a payment processing solutions provider founded in 2016 that develops and delivers technology, financial services and payment solutions to merchant customers to enable them to accept credit, debit and alternative payments online and at the point of sale. Merrco is the only payments company in Canada delivering innovative payment processing solutions like retail, ecommerce, click and collect and gift cards tailored to the cannabis industry. Our team of payment experts are continuously looking for ways to creatively solve payment needs for merchants by making payments smarter, simpler every step of the way. Visit www.merrco.com for more information.

For more information and to schedule interviews with Merrco senior leadership, please contact media@merrco.ca.

About RCU - Responsible Cannabis Use

RCU (Responsible Cannabis Use) is a cannabis education company that brings awareness to cannabis facts, laws, regulations, and research. Through its products: Cann I Know and CannEd, RCU aims to educate all Canadians about responsible cannabis use.

This data was captured through two quiz style surveys run on social media between April 30, and May 16, 2020. These convenience surveys engaged 2,019 participants in the first survey and 945 participants in the second survey. For more information about this campaign and to learn more visit thercu.org, follow @thercuorg on Twitter and join RCU on Facebook.

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