Cannabis Retail Licenses in Canada Explained
On October 17, 2018, The Cannabis Act came into effect, permitting the cultivation and sale of cannabis across the nation.
Ahead of the legalization day, provinces scrambled to put together licensing requirements for private retail stores, while other provinces opted out of permitting private sales, putting the responsibly wholly on individual provincial regulating bodies.
Needless to say, cultivators and potential retailers across Canada held their collective breaths as they found out whether they’d be permitted to sell cannabis in their province, and what procedures they’d need to take to obtain a license for sales.
Now, as we near one year after legalization, legal cannabis stores are starting to make their mark across the nation.
Private Vs. Public Retailers Across Provinces
It’s confusing to know which provinces permit what types of stores. Here’s a breakdown:
- Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and the Northwest Territories follow a Crown Corporation model where the province owns both the distribution and the retail stores and are responsible for all aspects of the cannabis supply chain.
- British Columbia, Newfoundland, and Labrador, Yukon, and Nunavut are licensing private retailers in addition to launching some of their own provincial cannabis stores.
- You will not find any provincially run stores in Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, with these provinces adopting a private retail model.
Types of Retail Licenses in Canada
Cannabis companies that want to open a private retail store in British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon and/or Nunavut must obtain the required Retail Operator License and/or Retail Store Authorization (or something similarly named) as defined by the province they’re operating in. These are issued by the individual provincial body that governs alcohol, gaming, or tobacco in the province. For instance, in Ontario, licenses are governed by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), while in British Columbia, licenses are awarded by the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch.
Retail licenses aren’t just handed out to anyone who applies across Canada. Not only do potential licensees need to meet a number of standards and protocols in their licensing, including Good Production Practices (GPPs), Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), physical security measures, record keeping and tracking systems, they also may be subject to a lottery process under which licenses are awarded, such as the case in Ontario.
So far, the province of Alberta’s AGLC (Alberta Gaming Liquor, and Cannabis) has issued more licenses than any other province in the nation, with 254 retail licenses awarded to private corporations, 491 currently in the approval process.
Eligibility for Retail Licenses in Canada
While each province that permits private retail licensing has its own regulations as to who is permitted to sell cannabis in Canada, the following are some of the eligibility requirements:
- You are over the age of 19;
- You have not been charged with certain offenses, including under the Cannabis Act;
- You have not had previous connections or roles with criminal organizations;
- Proof you have sufficient control over the cannabis retail business
Completing a Retail License Application
There is no doubt about it, completing a retail license application in your jurisdiction is an arduous task that takes a lot of time, effort, and attention to detail. Luckily, for emerging cannabis entrepreneurs, there some select agencies available like Cannabis Compliance Inc. and Consult and Grow that help prospective retailers complete their provincial and municipal applications.
What Can Be Sold in Private Cannabis Stores?
Licensed private cannabis stores are only permitted to sell a product that has been cultivated, manufactured, and packaged by a Health Canada approved Licensed Producer (LP). Private stores may not feature any small brands or non-licensed brands that are not attached to a licensed LP. The LP race is on, with medical and recreational brands emerging in the cannabis race, trying to grow the most appealing cannabis to Canada’s consumers.
The Importance of Customer Experience in Licensed Stores
No matter if a customer is entering a provincially owned, or privately owned cannabis retail store, they are looking for a positive and informative customer experience. Cannabis retail stores that are going through the licensing process or who are breaking ground on their retail stores will want to ensure they have the necessary tools to educate and inform their customer in-store.
This is where Budvue comes in. We work with licensed stores to create customized digital signage solutions that feature available products to customers. We are interested to work with retailers at all stages of their licensing process, as we recognize that it’s these fine nuances that make up the customer experience for licensed cannabis stores in Canada.
Connect with Budvue today as you take the next steps in the licensing process for your cannabis retail store.