Alberta reveals hybrid retail model for cannabis: depends on where you buy it

Photo courtesy of CBC

Last Thursday, Nov. 16, Alberta unveiled its proposed rules for cannabis retailers, and the province stands out as the only one so far to propose a hybrid system of government-controlled and private retail that depends on where you purchase your cannabis

If Bill 26, An Act to Control and Regulate Cannabis, is passed, online sales will be controlled by the government, but any brick-and-mortar stores will be privately owned and will require special business licenses to sell cannabis.

The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission would be in charge of distribution and licensing, which likely means that, much like in Manitoba, the only cannabis that can be legally purchased in Alberta will have to come from the licensed producers.

Alberta‘s rules so far

Although Alberta is allowing the private sector to handle all retail locations, the province will strictly regulate them, and cannabis retail locations will be standalone stores that are allowed to sell cannabis and associated products like rollies and lighters only- that means no tobacco, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, or even munchies can be sold on the same premises.

Other rules include:

  • Criminal record checks for cannabis business owners
  • Regulated hours of operation for retail stores
  • Staff must be 18 or older and receive cannabis training
  • Minimum age of 18 to purchase, possess, and consume

More rules will be coming in February and March that will lay out the minimum distances between dispensaries, schools, and liquor stores, and where cannabis stores can open in the first place.

On Nov. 14, Alberta also introduced changes to the Traffic Safety Act to include cannabis-impaired driving, which left Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht very concerned, telling CBC, “an adequate test for marijuana impairment doesn’t exist yet”.

East vs. West approach

The approach to legalization in western Canada has been much more pragmatic compared to the anti-pot hysteria we are seeing in the East- with BC considering a retail system of both private and public stores, Manitoba implementing an exclusively private retail system (although the catch is everybody is being forced to sell LP weed), and Alberta’s latest proposal of government-controlled online sales and private brick-and-mortar storefronts.

Western Canada is more open to a free(r) market- allowing for some actual competition and consumer choice- instead of government controlled monopolies, although people should also be allowed the same freedom to choose their growers as well, and not be forced to buy only LP weed.



CBC: Pot to be sold in Alberta private stores, on government website.

Edmonton Journal: ‘Demand will be huge’: Alberta government releases cannabis retail rules.

Global News: Pot to be sold from private retail locations in Alberta, supply handled by Liquor and Lotteries.

Globe and Mail: Alberta opts for private retail sales of legalized marijuana.

Toronto Star: Provinces split on plans for legal marijuana sales.