Vancouver cannabis store avoids penalties after employee sells cannabis to minor

| David Brown

A cannabis retailer in BC has avoided penalties after an employee sold edibles to a minor in a sting operation. 

A court has found that the company was not responsible for an employee failing to check the ID of a customer due to an extensive training program in place. While the employee was fired for their oversight, the retailer, Eggs Canna, did not have to face a $7,000 monetary penalty or shut down for seven days. 

Here is the sequence of events: On March 26 of this year, as part of an inspection, two BC Liquor and Cannabis Inspectors entered a cannabis store in Vancouver, including one “minor agent” who was only 18 years old. The age of legal access to cannabis in BC is 19. 

The “minor agent” then asked the employee if she could purchase edibles. The employee then directed the inspector to a display where the 18-year-old inspector selected what court records described as a package of Real Fruit Raspberry Chews containing THC 5mg per unit.

Although the staff member advised the minor agent of a 15 percent discount, they did not ask the minor agent what her age was, nor did the employee ask for any identification from the underage agent.

Once the two inspectors left the store with the purchased edibles, a third inspector entered the store, informed the staff member that he had sold cannabis to a minor, and asked for their Selling It Right certificate, which the staff member provided.

Two days later, on March 28, an inspector issued an electronic notice of non-compliance, which led to the issuance of a Notice of Enforcement Action (NOEA) dated April 4, 2023.

In court, the same inspector confirmed that the Licensee, Eggs Canna, had no history of non-compliance and that the contravention alleged in the NOEA was a first offence within a twelve-month period. Because of this, the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch fine would be the lowest penalty as set out in Schedule 2 of the Regulation for a contravention of this nature, either $7,000 or a seven-day licence suspension. 

Eggs Canna opted, if found responsible, for a seven-day suspension. 

However, the court found that the owners of Eggs Canna had taken the necessary steps to train their employees to check for IDs as part of a three-day “New Hire Orientation” training program. Eggs Canna’s regional manager also confirmed that the employee who sold cannabis to a minor had been fired following the incident. Eggs Canna also had a policy in place at the time requiring employees to ask for the ID of anyone who appeared to be under the age of 40, and the store’s point of sale system included prompts to ask for ID.

Although the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch argued that Eggs Canna was liable for the employee’s noncompliance, the court ruled otherwise, finding the store had a “strict culture of compliance prohibiting the sale of cannabis to minors.”

The representative for Eggs Canna told the court that she would like to see BC’s regulatory branch more willing to work with industry in a more collaborative manner, using discretion, and not penalizing operators “for missteps as the regulatory framework evolves.”

Eggs Canna has three locations, two in Vancouver and one in Kelowna, and is a legacy-era cannabis retailer. 

Featured image of the interior of an Eggs Canna location.