Private Companies Taking Over Alberta Online Cannabis Sales

Starting March 8, Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis will no longer accept online orders—and private dispensaries are cashing in.
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Privately owned cannabis dispensaries in Alberta, Canada will be able to accept online orders for cannabis products for home delivery to customers under new provincial regulations that go into effect next month. 

Under new regulations passed by the legislature last year, the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) will stop accepting online orders for cannabis products on March 8. At the same time, privately owned licensed dispensaries will take over online cannabis sales throughout the province. But before online sales can begin, dispensaries must first upgrade their license for online sales and the AGLC must approve e-commerce websites before they go live.

AGLC spokesperson Karin Campbell said that cannabis ordering websites must have a “robust” system for verifying the age of customers placing orders. Additionally, purchasers who appear to be less than 25 years old at the time of delivery will be required to show identification to the driver. So far, no retailer has received an endorsement from the AGLC for its website, Campbell noted, although she said that several companies have indicated that they will be prepared to begin taking online orders on March 8.

Dispensaries Preparing for Launch

To prepare for the change, brick-and-mortar dispensaries are busy preparing their websites and developing their infrastructure to make home deliveries. High Tide, a company that operates 58 Canna Cabana stores in Alberta and already sells cannabis online in the provinces of Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan, is working with the AGLC to put the finishing touches on its plan for online cannabis sales and home deliveries to begin on the March 8 launch date.

“We’ve done a pretty good job that we can operate online sales and home delivery in a safe, secure manner,” chief revenue officer Andy Palalas told the CBC. “It’s a big part of our strategy for addressing the illicit market.”

On Tuesday, High Tide announced that it was rolling out its new cannabis delivery on demand program at select Canna Cabana stores in Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan, with plans to expand the service to Alberta when regulators allow. Under the new program, customers will be guaranteed delivery of all online orders from participating stores within two hours of their order being placed, or at an hourly time slot chosen by the customer outside of the two-hour window.

“In addition to creating a fantastic delivery experience for our customers, this initiative also represents a proactive and thoughtful approach to competing with and drawing consumers away from the illicit cannabis market, which we know remains resilient in part due to their offering of unregulated delivery services,” High Tide CEO Raj Grover said in a statement from the company. “We plan on introducing this program in all provinces where we operate as soon as possible, and I look forward to seeing the growth and success of this program as we roll it out across Canada.”

Dank Cannabis in Alberta is also preparing to take online orders for home delivery of cannabis products beginning on next month’s launch date. Currently, customers can place orders on the dispensary’s website for pickup within a few hours. A Dank Cannabis spokesperson said that the beginning of online ordering for delivery will streamline cannabis purchases for its customers.

“Now with the landmark ruling in Alberta, cannabis connoisseurs will be able to enjoy their marijuana from the comfort of their homes,” the spokesperson told Digital Journal. “You can pick and choose to your heart’s delight on our carefully designed, feature-rich website and watch your favorite products arrive at your doorstep with no extra effort.”

Not all Dispensaries will be Ready

Some cannabis retailers, however, are not sure if they will be ready to begin taking online orders for home delivery on March 8. Matthew Anderson, vice-president of legal, business affairs, and compliance with cannabis retailer Fire & Flower told reporters he does not believe the retailer’s 42 dispensaries in Alberta will begin accepting online orders for home delivery on launch day.

“We’re down to the wire in terms of timing, and based on the responses I’ve received so far, I’m not optimistic that March 8 will be the day that we first deliver in Alberta,” said Anderson.

Not all of Alberta’s licensed dispensaries are keen to begin taking online orders for home delivery, however. Catherine Hill, the owner of the It’s 420 Somewhere dispensaries in High Level, Alberta, and Hay River, Northwest Territories said that she expects Alberta’s cannabis delivery market to be saturated with competition.

“Everybody’s going to be doing it,” she said.

Instead, It’s 420 Somewhere will focus on providing an engaging store experience for its clientele. 

“A lot of people also just love going in and speaking to their local budtender,” Hill explained.

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