Tim Hortons’ wifi blocks legal cannabis websites

Published on September 10, 2019 · Last updated July 28, 2020

We’re almost a year into legalization in Canada, but some things just won’t change to reflect that.

Take Canadian coffee chain Tim Hortons and the internet filter system it uses on its free, publicly accessible WiFi for its customers at every location across Canada, a service provided in conjunction with Bell Mobility.

Cannabis professionals and aficionados that spend time at the restaurant chain with their laptop or mobile devices might know that it’s difficult to access cannabis-related websites, even the legal ones.
Join the Leafly Canada CommunityThe terms and agreements that one must accept in order to get access to the service include a provision that the service has no liability for the content accessed through its service.

“Be aware that some content, products or services may be offensive to you or may not comply with applicable laws where you access the Services.”

However, the terms do not mention the possibility of the service blocking access to some sites, including cannabis-related websites. Surely, we can have blocks for pornography, but is it necessary for legal cannabis content? (For the record, we did not check the reliability of the chain’s porn blocking capabilities, for obvious reasons.)

Leafly attempted to browse a number of cannabis websites, with differing success. Websites such as the Ontario Cannabis Store, Tilray, and even our own Leafly website were completely blocked, with a notice that read: “Access to this page has been blocked due to inappropriate content,” followed by an email address that Tim Hortons WiFi users can contact.

Ironically, Leafly could access the landing pages of no less than five illegal mail order cannabis websites during its tests.

Access Denied

In addition, certain legal cannabis brands were not blocked. Aurora Cannabis’ medical cannabis website, and Tweed’s consumer website, for example, were both accessible, even though each website mentions cannabis.

A number of other cannabis sites, such as Canopy Growth and Lift, stalled in our Tim Hortons tests, failing to load any of the page. The failure to load was not accompanied by the same message that was shown for the other companies.

Some professionals are finding workarounds: Change up your practice to rely on old fashioned mobile phones and email.

Lisa Campbell, CEO of Lifford Cannabis solutions, recently quipped on her public Facebook profile that “nothing gives me more pleasure than using Tim Hortons across Canada as my impromptu office,” and lamented that the chain “may block our websites, but you can’t screen our legal weed calls!”

Leafly reached out to the Media Relations department of Tim Hortons to find out just how the internet blocking system works, and if the chain is open to allowing access to the websites of legal cannabis companies that are currently blocked by their wireless internet access system.

They did not respond by press time Monday.

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Harrison Jordan
Harrison Jordan
Harrison Jordan is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto and enjoys reading and writing about the regulatory affairs of cannabis in Canada and around the world.
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