Participants in “unlawful cannabis trade” ineligible for retail licenses in Alberta

As legalization draws nearer, it’s especially interesting to see the different approaches the provinces are taking. Let’s take a look at how Alberta is licensing their cannabis retailers.

Alberta’s stated goals are very much in line with the federal government’s, as politicians at both the provincial and federal levels want to:

  1. Keep cannabis away from kids
  2. Protect public health and safety
  3. Fight the billion dollar black market

But there are some unique ways that Alberta is going about achieving its goals, and in some aspects, it’s completely contradictory.

Alberta will automatically block anyone who participated in the cannabis black market from receiving a cannabis retail license

Alberta seems hellbent on ensuring that the retailers in its cannabis industry have little to no experience with the plant.

How else can you explain why Alberta is banning anyone who participated in the illegal market from being involved in the legal system, as the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) states on its website (emphasis mine),

An applicant that is or was a participant in the unlawful cannabis trade, including illegal retail or medical sales, or has criminal convictions for serious violence offences, possession for the purpose of trafficking, trafficking, manufacturing or production of a controlled drug or substance under the Controlled Drug and Substance Act will not be eligible for a retail cannabis licence.

Question: How exactly will excluding these people limit the black market?

If anything, the government is leaving them nowhere else to go. While it’s understandable why the government would want to block violent offenders, why would it punish retailers who opened up shop and sold cannabis (often in protest of unjust Prohibition laws, no less) before cannabis was officially legal?

Not to mention the experience and know-how that Alberta would lose out on by practically guaranteeing it will stay underground if they keep these people out.

Getting a cannabis retail license in Alberta is a long and arduous process

Daryl Robinson, who applied for a retail license, told CBC back in May, “Basically, the process was pretty gruelling. I expected it to be a little extensive and invasive, I just didn’t realize how invasive it was going to be.”

What is he talking about?

Well, each applicant must fill out a 70-page application form, pay $400 for each retail location, pay a $700 annual licensing fee, and put down a $3,000 deposit for background checks, according to CBC.

Not including the deposit, that’s at least $1,100 right off the bat (depending on the number of stores you’re applying for), and an AGLC spokesperson said that the background checks alone can take anywhere from 2-4 months!

For comparison, to get a liquor license, you need to fill out a 26-page application and (at least) $900 in fees- but if all goes well, you can expect your liquor license in less than a month.


Featured image courtesy of Safety Sign.


Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission: Retail cannabis store licenses.

CBC: Getting cannabis licences a ‘gruelling’ process for Alberta retailers.