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HIGHLIGHTS
  1. Bidders have until early February to express interest in a $450,000 contract
  2. Ontario Cannabis Store looking at March 1 as possible roll-out of expedited delivery
  3. OCS declined to say whether Canada Post would be allowed to bid on the contract

Ontario is looking to hire a same-day weed delivery service, Cannabis Professional has learned.

Bidders have until early February to express interest in a $450,000 contract to provide “expedited/same-day home delivery service” for the Ontario Cannabis Store starting March 1, and lasting until 2021, according to documents posted on a provincial procurement website late last week.

The OCS confirmed the details of the tender on Wednesday, saying it was “undertaking a competitive bidding process to find the best option(s) that works for the greatest number of customers across the widest geography at the best price.”

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“Customers have told us from very early on that they would like to have the option for same-day or expedited delivery service,” OCS spokesperson Amanda Winton said via e-mail, “OCS looks forward to announcing a timeline and service territory for launch of same-day service as soon as an agreement is finalized and the service offering has been clearly defined.”

Ms. Winton said the OCS cannot confirm the targeted March 1 start date or the estimated contract value as the process is “still in the speculative [request for proposals] stage.”

Canada Post has previously been the sole delivery partner for the Ontario Cannabis Store. Initially promising delivery timelines of no more than three business days province-wide, major delays caused in part by rotating strikes of Canada Post employees led to many early OCS customers waiting much longer than the advertised delivery date to receive their cannabis.

Ontario was also the only province in Canada to launch online-only recreational cannabis sales on Oct. 17, delaying the launch of storefront operations until April. Six days after the launch of recreational sales and in response to a mounting customer backlash, the OCS said it “has a contingency plan in the event orders cannot be fulfilled due to the ongoing labour dispute at Canada Post,” according to a statement dated Oct. 23, 2018.

That statement promised to “provide details at such time it would become necessary to put this plan into action,” but no further details were ever provided. The OCS declined to say Wednesday whether Canada Post would be allowed to bid on the same-day delivery contract and Canada Post Canada Post declined to comment about whether it was aware of the tender process and or interested in participating.

In preparing to offer same-day delivery options, the provincially-owned OCS is entering an extremely complex and highly competitive marketplace with established players on both sides of the law. Solace Health, a medical cannabis provider owned by Mississauga-based TerrAscend, for example, has been offering same-day delivery to patients in the Greater Toronto Area (from Oakville in the west to Oshawa in the east) since March, 2018, and Vaughan-based CannTrust launched a similar service one month before that.

Robyn Rabinovich, TerrAscend’s vice-president of business strategy, said Solace uses “multiple third parties [for same-day deliveries] that charge a range of prices that vary based on distance.”

“We look at it from a risk mitigation standpoint that if one channel goes down or another is unable to fulfill orders in a certain region that we have access to other options,” Ms. Rabinovich said.

Illicit marijuana sellers also offer same-day deliveries based on distance. The website for a service called Cannavitae offers free same-day delivery for orders of at least $35 within 5km of the Don Mills & Eglinton area of Toronto’s midtown, with prices rising to $20 for customers as far as 25km away. Cannavitae says it “strives to have your order delivered to you between two to four hours” after being processed.

While the OCS is the sole legal option for Ontario residents looking to buy recreational cannabis online, the retailer faces more competition in the same-day pot delivery business than it might think.

“By purchasing our products, you are not purchasing cannabis,” reads part of the frequently-asked-questions section of the website for SkipTheDispensary, a website that has been offering same-day delivery in the Toronto area since 2015. “You are receiving a representation of said purchased product in the form of a t-shirt or bag, that may contain a free gift of marijuana.”

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