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Online cannabis dispensaries join in on Black Friday sales

Last Updated Nov 24, 2017 at 4:40 pm EST

Cannabis seedlings at the new Aurora Cannabis facilty Friday, November 24, 2017 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Online cannabis dispensaries are the latest to cash in on the holiday shopping frenzy, with some offering dramatic markdowns or novelty products as the season known for consumer spending gets underway.

Several online cannabis stores are holding Black Friday sales for the first time this year in an effort to stay competitive and draw new customers in what they call an increasingly competitive market.

Savings typically range from 10 to 35 per cent, though some deals advertised go as high as 45 per cent off.

The sale of medical marijuana has been legal for years, but selling cannabis for recreational purposes won’t be allowed until next summer, with each province setting its own rules.

Under current rules, only producers who are licensed by Health Canada are allowed to produce and sell cannabis to those with a prescription.

Storefront and online dispensaries that are not licensed are illegal. Brick-and-mortar dispensaries in some cities, including Toronto, have been the target of police raids in the last year, which has led some of them to shut down. Many, however, continue to operate.

Eric Chan, manager of the Vancouver-based Canada Weed Dispensary, said jumping on the Black Friday bandwagon seemed like a simple way to spur sales.

The company, which verifies customers are over 19 and have a prescription for medical marijuana, has seen a spike in traffic on its site since it announced a 25-per-cent markdown on all stock, he said.

But he said it’s too early to see whether that translates to a big bump in sales. “It’s only 10 a.m. here and most of these guys I believe are probably just getting up,” he said.

For SESH Cannabis, a months-old online dispensary based in Toronto, slashing prices for Black Friday seemed like a good way to draw attention to a fledgling company, said founder Anthony Sesh.

“You kind of have to create a big splash just because there’s so many other storefronts doing sales similar to this as well too, so that’s why we kind of opted for 25 (per cent off), some other stores are doing 10-15, in order to make an impact,” he said.

“We want to make that impact and we want to gain customers,” he said.

Cannabis activist Jodie Emery, who is out on bail on drug-related charges, said that as the industry grows and businesses multiply, “trying to compete and differentiate from everyone else means offering great deals or clever discounts of some kind.”

It can also mean getting creative with products, she said, pointing to a recent crop of cannabis advent calendars that has turned into an unexpected hit.

“It’s super clever and fun and the consumer definitely demands it, and that’s why the businesses offer it,” she said.