On October 17th, exactly one week from today, weed will be legal in Canada. What that means is by this time next week, Canadians will be flocking to newly-legal recreational marijuana retailers to get their fill.
But, many Canadians will likely opt for the easy and convenient method of ordering their weed online. While this is super convenient considering you don't even have to leave your house, it also carries some risks with it and a lot of things are still unknown.
When legalization was first announced, the government decided that, just like with alcohol, the provinces could set their own rules and regulations surrounding weed, especially where and how it's sold. That being said, every single province and territory has opted for online sales.
However, the biggest province for online sales will be in Ontario, where Premier Doug Ford's government has shut down the originally planned Ontario-run pot shops. This means that until private retailers open in mid-2019, Ontarians will only be able to order online.
In some provinces like Alberta and Newfoundland, the provincial governments will be responsible for running the online sites. Meanwhile, in other places like Manitoba, Nunavut, and Saskatchewa, online retailers will be privately run.
Ontario has also opted for a somewhat private route, partnering with Shopify - a Canadian company - to handle the payments and financial processing for online marijuana sales throughout the province.
It would make sense that ordering weed would be like any other online purchase you make. You choose what product you want and then pay for it with a credit card or other online banking system. But, a spokesperson for Ontario Cannabis Stores explains exactly what consumers should expect.
Daffyd Roderick told the Financial Post that the only information collected would be a name, address, contact information (email or phone number), and payment information. He also said, “this information is used to process transactions, to verify the identity of the purchaser, to deliver and return products, to issue refunds, and to protect against error or fraud.”
What remains unclear is how this will verify the identity or age of a person, since there are limits on how old you have to be to purchase and consume weed. In most places, the legal purchasing age is 19, but in Alberta and Quebec it's only 18 - however, the minimum age in Quebec could soon be raised to 21. One question experts have yet to answer is how they will be able to tell if a teenager is using an older sibling's or parent's ID info to buy weed.
Another big question arising out of online sales is about what kind of paper trail this will leave and how people's private data will be protected or used. With legalization only a week away, privacy advocates are really worried about this.
A number of questions about where the data will be stored, who has access to it, and the implications of that data getting out, have started coming up recently. Another concern is that, with each province and territory having a different online system, it's not clear if any data will be shared between them or if they will all follow similar regulations.
Privacy experts like Matt Murphy, who also spoke to the Financial Post, highlighted the fact that with legalization only a week away, it's important to get these answers sooner rather than later.
But one of the biggest concerns with privacy is in regards to what could happen if the US got this data. The US has already talked about banning anyone who has used weed, even once it's legal, from entering the States for life if they are asked about it at the border.
More recently, there was worry that border officials could demand to see your credit card statements for evidence of legal marijuana transactions. Now, a similar concern is that if the US is able to access Canada's online weed data, they could ban Canadians from the country before they even get near the border.
When it comes to Canadians' future of purchasing legal marijuana, it looks like privacy concerns are actually a bit of a factor. The Vancouver Sun recently asked people if privacy concerns would stop them from buying weed online - almost 70 percent of them said yes, it would.
Unfortunately, for some of them, that may mean not buying legal marijuana altogether. In Ontario, online retailers are the only option right now. Even in BC where they are opening physical stores, as of right now, there is only one in the whole province and it's in Kamloops. So, the only two options are making a special trip to Kamloops or ordering their stash online.