Online cannabis sales in Alberta move to licensed retailers

Lynn Imbier

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Online shopping and delivery of cannabis to Albertans’ doors will begin through some licensed cannabis retailers on Tuesday.

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The transition to a widespread online market comes three months after Bill 80, Alberta’s Red Tape Reduction Implementation Act, was adjusted for Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) to withdraw from the digital landscape to make room for licensed retailers to install their own e-commerce platforms.

Since 2017, AGLC has been Alberta’s sole provider of online cannabis retail sales, said Kandice Machado, AGLC’s CEO during a Monday morning media availability.

Retailers will need an endorsement from AGLC, which is still responsible for the wholesale and distribution of retail cannabis products before they can start selling online. AGLC purchases cannabis products from federally-licensed producers and distributes them to licensed private retailers.

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“I am delighted to share that AGLC has provided endorsement to five companies representing 74 locations to date,” said Machado.

Dave Berry, AGLC’s vice-president, regulatory, said another 14 companies representing 18 locations in the province are currently being reviewed for endorsement.

Machado said the growing popularity of e-commerce has been a driving force for the industry to adapt to consumer demand.

“This update will provide licensed cannabis retailers new revenue opportunities and enhance consumer convenience,” she said. “These changes will also encourage industry innovation, private sector investment and diversification to meet the needs of this growing sector.”

Albertans will be able to find a list of licensed cannabis retailers that are able to sell product online on AGLC’s website Tuesday.

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While delivery is now an option, third-party carriers, such as Uber and SkipTheDishes, are not able to deliver cannabis, said Machado. She added they are looking into the possibility of third-party cannabis delivery in the future but it would require legislative changes.

Licensed cannabis retailers interested in selling their products online must contact AGLC’s inspections branch which includes a process of viewing the proposed website which must have a reasonable “age gating” method and a home page that prominently displays all of the licensees’ license numbers, all license premises names, physical addresses of the licensed premises, AGLC mandatory public education material and a link to AGLC’s cannabis licensee search page, said Berry.

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Retailers must also have reasonable methods of age verification which could include in-store identification or video conferencing.

Berry also pointed to a few ways Albertans can identify an illegal site.

“If you’re buying cannabis online and the site offers the following options, it’s an illegal site: Offering to ship anywhere in Canada, features packaging or products that could appeal to young persons or that purchases can exceed the 30 gram or equivalent limit,” he said.

Berry said retailers will be responsible for ensuring their online platforms meet all legislation and regulatory requirements, including privacy laws, and AGLC will inspect sites on an ongoing basis to ensure compliance.

“For retailers found to be non-compliant with any municipal, provincial or federal requirements, AGLC may impose an administrative sanction,” said Berry.

Berry expects more retailers to receive endorsements from AGLC to launch their online sites over the next few weeks.

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