Alberta looking at allowing online sales for cannabis retailers

The Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) says they are looking at allowing cannabis retailers to sell products online and to sell non-cannabis products (such as apparel) in their stores. 

In a survey released on Monday, June 14, the provincial regulator is asking retailers to respond to a survey seeking to gauge industry interest in these changes, in order to allow them to ensure they can better succeed in a highly competitive market. 

The survey asks businesses how interested they are in selling products online and in selling non-cannabis products. Currently, the only legal online sales in the province are through Alberta’s own online store, albertacannabis.org, although there are numerous unlicensed online stores in Canada that operate very openly.

It also asks retailers if the province should implement a limit on the percentage of non-cannabis products in store, similar to their cap of 10% for total sales in liquor stores also regulated by the AGLC.

A representative for the AGLC says the agency does not have a set release date for the summary document but say it will most likely be late Fall 2021. They also note any changes based on this feedback could take “anywhere from months to years, depending on the consultation results.”

Earlier this year, the province has looked at allowing greater allowance for promotional activities from cannabis retailers, but ended up deciding against it.

John Carle, the Executive Director of the Alberta Cannabis Council says it’s a good potential step in giving Alberta cannabis stores a chance to reach more consumers.

“The AGLC continues to work with industry to find ways to allow legal businesses to compete with the illicit market. These two policy changes, while not drastic, open the door for legal retailers to expand their operations and develop their individual brands.”

“I think it’s probably going to be one of the biggest blows to the unregulated market if we can open up (online sales).”

Ryan Roch, Lake City Cannabis

Omar Khan, the Senior Vice President of Corporate and Public Affairs at High Tide Inc.—that owns Canna Cabana and NewLeaf Cannabis that operate in Alberta—says online sales would go a long way to helping legal stores compete with the illicit market. High Tide has 58 locations in Alberta currently.

“We have been working closely with the AGLC over the past several months as they have been exploring various policy recommendations related to reducing red tape and administrative burdens on regulated cannabis retailers in Alberta, including allowing retailers to engage in e-commerce and in the sale of non cannabis related items such as apparel.  

“Allowing legal retailers to offer online sales would represent a significant tool to push back against unregulated delivery services, which have seen a resurgence due to pandemic related restrictions, thus taking revenue away from organized crime and ensuring public health is safeguarded,” he continued.  “Allowing for the sale of non cannabis related items like apparel would also create additional revenue streams for regulated retailers who have seen temporary reductions in sales in recent months due to the pandemic.”

“We’ll work with the AGLC on the consultation process, whatever is ultimately in the best interest of the customer is what is in our heart of things, but our focus is on the brick and mortar side of the business.”

Darren Karasiuk, the CEO of Nova Cannabis

Ryan Roch, the owner of Lake City Cannabis, with a location in Chestermere and Calgary, says he sees online sales helping to compete with the illicit market, and is very open to selling non-cannabis products such as apparel.

“I think it’s probably going to be one of the biggest blows to the unregulated market if we can open that up,” says Roch. “Because at that point the ease of access and convenience of a local service, there’s not much else you can fault. And as far as selling non-cannabis products, I don’t think there’s anyone who would push back on new revenue streams.”

Darren Karasiuk, the CEO of Nova Cannabis, which operates 50 retail stores in Alberta under the Nova and Value Buds brand, says they will be open to online sales, but he doesn’t see it being a significant driver of sales. Likewise, he says selling non cannabis products will likely not be something their stores focus on.

“We’ll work with the AGLC on the consultation process, whatever is ultimately in the best interest of the customer is what is in our heart of things, but our focus is on the brick and mortar side of the business.”

Alcanna, the parent company of Nova and Value Buds, also operates several liquor stores in the province, and offers online sales for liquor in Alberta. Karasiuk says this tends to not be a large portion of sales on that side of the business. 

“Alcanna offers that on the liquor side of things as a customer convenience and if that existed in cannabis we would likely do the same, although if evidence on the liquor side is any suggestion of its impact on things it wouldn’t be much. People prefer shopping more in a brick-and-mortar context. But we would certainly intend to offer it up.”

There are currently 643 approved retailers listed in Alberta.

Note: This article has been updated to provide comments from the AGLC.


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