The Ontario Cannabis Store has launched a same-day delivery service in an effort to put a dent in the province’s burgeoning black market.

The service is initially limited to Toronto, but it will be rolled out across the province if the pilot proves successful.

Same-day delivery will cost consumers $12.17 plus HST if they get their orders in by 11.59am, and it goes up to $13.75 for orders placed between noon and 1pm. The order will then arrive between 6:30pm and 10pm, according to the OCS website.

Customers will receive a series of text message updates from the delivery agent throughout the afternoon, providing them with a live tracking link and delivery status information. Next-day shipping is now offered too, at a cost of $10.62 plus HST.

Until now all orders have taken three business days to arrive, with a cost of $5 plus HST, using Canada Post Xpress delivery.

The OCS was met with a degree of scorn after proudly announcing the news on Twitter. Social media users were keen to point out that black market dealers already offer same-day delivery and they do not charge for it, while it is tax-free.

“You are charging more for this than what the actual retail price of the product is, which is already too high,” said one scathing member of the Twitterati, who branded the news “such a joke”.

It highlights the stern challenge the province faces in seizing market share from the illicit cannabis trade. Ontario has been slow to roll out cannabis retail stores following legalization in October 2018, and it lags well behind the likes of Alberta in terms of store numbers.

Some commenters on Twitter urged it to focus on opening more stores, particularly in cities that are not currently served. A lung illness outbreak in North America has been linked to black market THC vaping cartridges, and consumers would be far better off buying from the legal market, where products are strictly regulated, but they remain deterred by pricing issues.

The OCS has previously monopolized online sales in the province, although it will now permit consumers to browse retailer’s websites and order cannabis to be picked up at their stores in a click-and-collect model. It has also controlled wholesale in Ontario, but it is now reportedly planning to allow the private sector to get involved and offer consumers greater choice.