As of March 8th, 2022, Alberta Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis (AGLC) has shut down the Alberta online cannabis sales section of their website. When you visit their site, this is the message that is displayed:
“Thank you for stopping by. Alberta Cannabis no longer offers online sales. Alberta has over 700 licensed cannabis retailers, some offering online ordering, that will continue to provide choices in legal products for consumers.”
All online cannabis sales in Alberta must now have in-person retail store suppliers. Businesses wanting to sell online are responsible for obtaining an endorsement from AGLC’s Inspections Branch. Among other things, this involves ensuring that age-gate controls are in place on their website before making sales. In addition, licensed stores are responsible for arranging delivery. They can offer mailing options through Canada Post, an approved courier, or arrange their own delivery. If they choose to use their own delivery drivers, the drivers will require a SellSafe certification to verify the recipient’s age.
Challenges for Rural Communities
As of the writing of this article, there are 101 out of 756 licensed cannabis retailers in Alberta currently authorized for online sales. That is only 13 percent of the retail industry to handle all online sales for Alberta. And, there is no guarantee that those 101 retail stores are offering mailed options as AGLC was. It is up to the stores whether they offer local deliveries, mailed deliveries, or both.
This crunch in the market has created challenges for rural communities. It’s not a problem for individuals in Edmonton or Calgary. But, in the remote northern sections of the province, running into a store or arranging local delivery isn’t an option. With many businesses currently only offering local delivery, this has left many rural Albertans high and dry. Only time will tell whether this decision leaves an opening for the illegal market.
Retailers Wanted a Private Market but Weren’t Ready
Many retailers pushed the government to be able to sell online and have a full stake in the market. Selling online allows stores to reach a broader audience. It also allows customers to order a full line of products online versus being able to buy only cannabis through AGLC. The province’s online sales only accounted for a small part of the market at 1.5 percent. However, there are huge opportunities with local deliveries and more products online. It’ll be interesting to see what percentage of the market online sales represents in a few years.
Even though Alberta retailers wanted to privatize online sales, many weren’t ready for the Mar. 8, 2022 rollout. The low number of participating stores is mainly due to the restrictions in place. Retailers are asking for a drop on the ban on third-party delivery; and more clarification around the strict age verification rules. In time, as others test out the waters, we are sure to see more players in the Alberta online cannabis market.
Cannabis At Your Door
Despite the current challenges, this move to private online sales in Alberta is exciting. With Alberta already leading the way with privatized liquor sales, it’s setting the trend again with cannabis sales. This move to open the market will provide Albertans with an increase in selection and a potential decrease in costs. The other huge benefit is deliveries right to your door.