Private-sector online cannabis sales, delivery coming to Alberta in March

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Private-sector cannabis retailers in Alberta will take over online adult-use sales and delivery from a government-owned online store in March 2022, providing new opportunities to stores in the competitive Canadian market.

Canada’s fourth-largest province by population consistently punches above its weight in terms of legal cannabis sales, boasting the second-largest provincial cannabis market in September with sales totaling 60.7 million Canadian dollars ($47 million).

Alberta made an early decision to hand brick-and-mortar retail sales to private industry but initially kept online sales and deliveries in the hands of government-owned cannabis wholesaler and regulator Alberta Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis (AGLC).

The move toward private-sector cannabis e-commerce follows an AGLC consultation earlier this year.

A government bill permitting the change passed earlier this month.

In a statement to MJBizDaily, AGLC confirmed that the change will come into force on March 8, 2022.

The government-owned online retailer, AlbertaCannabis.org, “will be decommissioned for retail cannabis sales” on the same date, AGLC spokeswoman Karin Campbell said in a statement.

The agency said licensed Alberta cannabis retailers who want to launch online cannabis sales must:

  • Obtain a special AGLC endorsement on their license.
  • Meet certain criteria, which are still being developed, “so consumers can verify (whether the retailer’s) website is associated with a valid licensee.”
  • Implement new online age-gating measures, since “self-attestation by entering age or a drop-down selection of date of birth is insufficient.”
  • Only deliver within Alberta, and never to “minors or intoxicated patrons.”

“AGLC inspectors will regularly inspect websites to ensure compliance,” Campbell wrote.

Delivery fees will be permitted, as will curbside delivery, and retailers will be allowed to deliver via “staff contracted or directly employed by the licensee,” or via common carriers.

“Other delivery services such as third-party vendor or delivery services or other local delivery services will not be included at this time.”

According to AGLC draft rules provided to Alberta retailers in December and acquired by MJBizDaily, any online cannabis sales “must be placed by a customer directly with the licensee.”

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“Licensees are not allowed to process orders initially placed through third-party websites or apps not operated by the licensee,” the draft rules note.

“These restrictions are not intended to prohibit licensees from using services provided by companies to facilitate their own e-commerce, inventory management and regulatory compliance.”

According to Campbell, “Draft policy will be released shortly to allow retailers the opportunity to prepare during this transitional period.”

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