A major cannabis retailer in Alberta is applauding the UCP’s plan to let private companies sell products online, a change outlined in a bill introduced in the legislature Thursday.
Currently, the Alberta Gaming and Liquor and Cannabis controls online sales through its Albertacannabis.org site.
The suggested amendment in Bill 80, the Red Tape Reduction Implementation Act, would allow any private company with existing physical stores to also sell online.
Omar Khan, senior vice president of corporate and public affairs with High Tide Inc., which operates 57 Canna Cabana stories in Alberta, said it’s welcome news.
“That will help us also further compete with the illicit market, which is still resilient,” Khan said in an interview Thursday. “The more we can do to build up and support this legal sector, the better it will be for everybody.”
Khan said the majority of cannabis sales in the country is done legally now, but illegal sales still make up a significant portion of sales.
It also doesn’t make sense that AGLC acts as the wholesale partner with cannabis retailers and as competitor with private companies in e-commerce, Khan said.
Khan said High Tide has an advantage in that it has shops in other provinces with established online portals, while smaller retailers in Alberta could face building its e-commerce component from scratch.
As demonstrated in provinces with existing e-commerce cannabis portals like Ontario, B.C., and Manitoba, Khan said the private sector as a whole has shown it can be done responsibly.
“We can do so in a manner that protects our youth, that keeps access away from youth but also gives adults the ability to access a legal product in a safe and regulated manner.”
Kandice Machado, president and CEO at the AGLC, is more than willing to let go of the online sales portal even though the AGLC would lose about $200,000 in annual sales.
“We anticipate that this is going to increase private-sector investment and job creation in the province, and of course enhance customer convenience.,” Machado told CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active‘s Rod Kurtz Thursday.
Machado said the AGLC will still have a regulatory role — and help ensure minors don’t access online sales venues.
“A check-box won’t quite be enough in Alberta,” Machado said of security measures requiring proof of identification.
If Bill 80 passes in the legislature, the AGLC would shut down its website within 90 days of others being allowed to sell cannabis online.
Bill 80 also proposes to relax liquor laws around consumption in public places.
It would allow municipalities to create entertainment districts where people could drink outside bars and restaurants.
The suggested amendment comes on the heels of the City of Edmonton’s pilot project this summer, which allowed people to drink at designated sites in seven city parks.
Michael Janz, councillor for Ward Papastew that encompasses Whyte Avenue and Old Strathcona entertainment districts, welcomed the idea.
“I can think of dozens of community events that could have been enhanced with the opportunity for responsible consumption of adult beverages,” Janz said in an email statement.
Janz said he’s heard positive feedback from neighbours about the liquor in the park pilot.
The UCP’s proposed bill also includes a clause to allow people to serve homemade wine, cider and beer at private functions like weddings.