VICTORIA -- The B.C. government has decided to allow private cannabis retailers to sell their products online and over the phone, although in-store pickup is still required.

Previously, customers could only reserve non-medical pot online and were required to be physically present to pay for the product. Now retailers can use apps and websites to collect payment information and charge customers, limiting the time customers need to spend in stores.

The province says the change was prompted by concerns about transmitting COVID-19.

In a statement Tuesday, the B.C. Ministry of the Attorney General said store employees will still be required to verify customer identification and will be required to use an age-verification tool for online sales.

"This change responds to a request from private retailers as they continue to follow the mandates of the provincial health officer," said Attorney General David Eby.

"It supports public health and safety by reducing the amount of time customers need to spend in stores and allows them to remain physically distanced from employees and each other."

The province says it is also considering legislation to allow private retailers to deliver cannabis to customers, however the practice remains illegal at present.

"We've heard from legal cannabis retailers that they want more tools to help increase competitiveness with the illegal market by allowing online sales," said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, in a statement Tuesday.

"By offering online sales for cannabis products, we can support the growth of a vibrant, legal cannabis industry, while also keeping public safety as our top priority," he said.