Consumers have clearly shown they like the ease of purchasing items online. eCommerce is a growing market and projections for online sales show continued increased growth. For medical licensed producers, eCommerce presents a way to ensure that patients can easily fill or refill their prescriptions. To take advantage of the popularity of eCommerce, Canadian cannabis companies will need to either build out their own online menu system or utilize existing eCommerce software platforms such as Shopify or Namaste.
Shopify Making Inroads in BC and Ontario
Several licensed producers, as well as the provinces of British Columbia and Ontario, have partnered with Shopify to sell recreational cannabis online. Shopify, a Canadian eCommerce company that has helped changed how retailers sell online, will not only be tasked in online cannabis sales. In addition, they’ll handle in-store sales for Ontario via their platform.
While this is Shopify’s first foray into cannabis, they are a well-known tech company. Their ease of use and reliability have made them a first-rate choice for many retailers around the world, allowing them to reach consumers online, in person, or via social media. This established network will benefit both B.C. and Ontario as they roll out their new cannabis programs and provide Shopify with the opportunity to further expand in a new industry.
Namaste—Enough of a Head Start?
Before Shopify began investigating opportunities for online cannabis sales in Canada, Namaste was meeting demand for medical marijuana accessories such as vaporizers. Following the passing of the Cannabis Act, however, Namaste plans to shift its business model and both offer online medical and recreational cannabis sales through its subsidiary, CannMart, and medical recommendations through Namaste MD.
Already, CannMart has been approved by Health Canada to purchase pre-packaged, labeled, and tested cannabis products. This will allow CannMart to move product more quickly and to reduce the amount of time and money they spend on testing and repackaging. The company already supplies patients with medical marijuana, however, it is primed to move into the recreational space thanks to its new license and acquisitions made by Namaste.
In addition, Namaste will be launching Namaste MD, a telemedicine portal that will allow Canadians to receive medical marijuana recommendations via email and then fill their prescriptions via CannMart. For some Canadians, this may be easier than visiting a doctor in person.
Effects of eCommerce on Medical Cannabis
The question many industry experts have regarding the Canadian cannabis eCommerce landscape is whether Shopify or Namaste is primed to make larger inroads in the industry. Ultimately, the main difference that Shopify and Namaste have is experience when it comes to cannabis sales. While Shopify is a leader in the eCommerce space, it has yet to face the many regulations that come with cannabis sales. Namaste and CannMart have experience in the medical cannabis industry and may be able to handle the regulations inherent in the Cannabis Act as well as those imposed by different provinces more quickly and with better reliability.
Regardless of whether Shopify or Namaste fares better in the cannabis eCommerce landscape, Canadians will benefit thanks to an increase in options and accessibility.
Medical cannabis eCommerce combined with increased coverage of medical marijuana under certain insurance plans will not only serve to further normalize cannabis as medicine. It will also make it even easier for patients to get the high-quality, pharmaceutical-grade cannabis products they need to manage their conditions or symptoms. Ultimately, both of these effects may lead to the further growth of the medical cannabis industry in Canada—even with the onset of recreational sales.