BC repealing visibility requirements for cannabis stores

| David Brown

Cannabis stores in BC no longer need to worry about being fined for having cannabis products visible through their windows.

The BC Government announced today that provincial cannabis regulations will no longer require that cannabis, cannabis accessories, or their packaging and labelling within the store have to be hidden from the view of anyone passing by outside the store. 

The BC Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB), which oversees cannabis regulations in the province, will instead have a term and condition prohibiting window displays of cannabis and cannabis accessories to people outside the store, keeping provincial regulations in line with federal limitations around product visibility.

We spent a lot of money on this, we tried to make it a little more welcoming than just a black window or like something bad is going on there.

Vince Collard, 642 Cannabis

The move is a step beyond changes first made by the province in 2020 when the government removed their rule that required retailers to be enclosed by “non-transparent walls”. This had, in effect, forced most retailers to use window coverings they said were unsafe and, at times, in conflict with local zoning rules. 

Many retailers said the change didn’t go far enough, though, since provincial and federal regulations still say that cannabis cannot be visible in areas where minors could see it, which could be as simple as someone walking by a store on a public sidewalk. 

Vince Collard of 642 Cannabis in Sooke, BC says he’s happy to hear of the changes, but is frustrated he had to spend thousands of dollars on a window covering he now no longer needs. Still, he says it’s a good change that will make the store more welcoming. 

“We spent a lot of money on this, we tried to make it a little more welcoming than just a black window or like something bad is going on there.”

Mike Babins, the owner of Evergreen Cannabis in Vancouver, shares a similar sentiment. He says he’s happy the rule has finally been changed, but is frustrated it took so long, and that the announcement came with no warning before a long weekend. He hopes to have his window coverings on his store down by early next week. 

“Finally,” says Babbins. “This is great. We’ve been fighting for this since the day we got our licence.”

The newest change by BC is similar to changes made in Alberta in 2022 that also removed the section of the provincial regulations that prohibited products from being visible to minors outside of stores. Retailers in that province expressed similar safety concerns and the province’s messaging for making the changes spoke to these concerns, as well. 

Farnworth discussed the legislative changes at an industry event in Kelowna in April, saying he would be taking the issue to cabinet for discussion. He mentioned looking at the issue from a public safety lens since many retailers have expressed concern that the lack of visibility into the stores makes them easy targets for robberies

BC’s rules for retailers previously stated that cannabis, cannabis accessories, and the packaging and labelling of cannabis and cannabis accessories could not be visible from outside that store.

Andrea Dobbs, one of the owners of the Village Bloomery, with two locations in Vancouver, says she was very happy with the news. 

“I’m grateful to all of the retailers who made noise! I know the RCBC (Retail Cannabis Council of British Columbia) put some energy behind this so I’m grateful to them as well.Im looking forward to waving hello to passers by and to feeling seen. Feeling seen to me means feeling safe.