Ontario chooses Shopify to run online cannabis sales

Ontario has chosen Shopify Inc.’s e-commerce platform for in-stores and online cannabis sales.

The Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation (OCRC), a subsidiary of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), announced this morning that the Ottawa-based company’s online and mobile sales portals will be used to develop a framework for selling recreational cannabis. The decision was made in late 2017, but was only made public today, according to the OCRC.

“Our top priority is fulfilling the Province’s framework for the safe and sensible retailing of recreational cannabis for when it is legalized by the federal government,” said George Soleas, president and CEO of the LCBO.

Shopify will provide a cloud-based retail solution for both on and offline sales, the OCRC said in a statement. It will connect to its head office systems and allow for shopping across desktop, mobile and in-store sales. The backend technology powering the screens throughout the physical stores will include product and health information, which will fall in line with federal guidelines and marketing provisions once legislation passes. In-store POS systems will work through iPad hardware.

The actual design for the in-store and online user experience is yet to be determined. The OCRC and Shopify are working together to combine Shopify’s commerce solutions. Approximately 150 standalone stores will be opened in 2020, including 80 by July 1 of 2019, servicing all regions of the province, Ontario announced last September. Dedicated stores selling cannabis will not be sold alongside alcohol, and illicit dispensaries are now, and will continue to be illegal under the new rules.

“Ontario will work with and support law enforcement to shut down these illegal operations,” according to Ontario’s website.

Canada has announced a total of 89 licenses issued to producers of cannabis across the country. Forty-eight of them are in Ontario. The federal government wants to legalize cannabis in July 1 of this year. Canadian sales for recreational marijuana are expected to reach $4.5 billion by 2021, according to bloomberg.com.

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