Alberta rethinks cannabis store window coverings after robberies

Image of security camera footage of Lake City Cannabis robbery
A security camera image shows a 2021 robbery at a Lake City Cannabis location in Calgary, Alberta. (Photo courtesy of Lake City Cannabis)

Regulators in the Canadian province of Alberta have scrubbed a rule that led to cannabis stores covering their windows after “a significant rise in commercial robberies,” particularly in the largest city of Calgary.

Some robberies have involved violence and weapons, an Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) executive wrote in a Tuesday letter to licensed stores, which was obtained by MJBizDaily.

“AGLC’s board has approved this change to ensure that AGLC policy is not inadvertently contributing to targeting these locations due to a lack of visibility into the site,” the letter noted.

However, the letter advised retailers that remove their window coverings not to simply cover the windows “with outward-facing promotions and advertising materials,” reminding them of the Canadian federal government’s restrictions on cannabis promotions.

Police told the Calgary Herald there were 29 cannabis store robberies in 2021, with more occurring this year.

The window coverings emerged from a regulatory requirement that prohibited cannabis or accessories from being visible from outside a store.

In a statement to MJBizDaily, the AGLC said it “is deeply concerned about the rise of violent robberies at Alberta retail cannabis stores” and that it would continue to work with stores “to enhance retail security and the safety of retail staff and consumers and minimize visibility to youth wherever possible.”

Ryan Roch, owner and operator of Lake City Cannabis in Chestermere and Calgary, said he knows of many stores that have been robbed over the past year.

“The violence kind of increased too, over time, and things got a little more brazen.”

Roch’s Calgary store was robbed last September, with another attempted robbery this year, leading him to raise the issue of window coverings with the AGLC.

He said he was grateful to the regulator for changing the rule, even if he wished it had happened sooner.

“But regardless of that, it’s good that the AGLC is taking steps to put their retailers’ safety ahead of everything else.”

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Major retail chain High Tide also welcomed the announcement, saying that the visibility-blocking requirement made stores “prime targets for criminal elements.”

“Today’s news is a win for our employees’ safety, and our ability to continue pushing back against illicit market operators,” Alberta-based High Tide said in a statement.

Solomon Israel can be reached at solomon.israel@mjbizdaily.com.