Alberta’s private cannabis stores can start offering home delivery and online sales as the provincial regulator steps back from the services, but only a few companies are ready to go on the first day.
On Tuesday, the provincial regulator took down Alberta Cannabis, the online government-run cannabis store, which had been the only online retail and delivery service authorized for pot in the province.
When the decision by Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis was announced late last year, private stores welcomed less provincial competition in the cannabis market.
Speaking ahead of the launch, Dave Berry, VP of the AGLC’s regulatory services, said five companies representing 74 locations in the province had been endorsed by the regulator and were approved for the initial roll out.
Another 14 companies, with 18 locations, are under review.
For Peak Cannabis in Calgary, as an independent store and one of the first ready to roll with delivery and online sales, owner Will Forseth says he’s excited and hopeful to draw in new consumers.
“Delivery is one of the last logistical things that the gray market had over the [recreational] market,” he tells Mugglehead by phone.
Very soon we will be able to answer the question of “do you deliver?”
With a very emphatic YES!
— The Peak Cannabis Co. (@PeakCannabis) March 7, 2022
While preparing for online sales and delivery, Forseth says there were a few surprises along the way, including the rigorous age-gate requirement to access online cannabis menus.
Retailers are responsible for ensuring their online platforms follow AGLC, municipal, provincial and federal rules.
“This includes reasonable age verification methods to prevent minors from accessing online cannabis,” the regulator says in a statement.
Some retailers have turned to third-party services to comply with the age gate verification, which goes a step beyond the requirements of other provinces. Entering a birthdate won’t be enough to see online cannabis menus.
Peak Cannabis is using a third-party service, while others are offering in-store verification to access online menus.
“In my experience, it seems like AGLC kind of takes take the most hardline approach when it comes to the enforcement of the [Cannabis] Act,” Forseth adds.
Retail titan High Tide Inc. (Nasdaq: HITI) (TSXV: HITI) (FSE: 2LYA) says it has launched its delivery program at select locations in Alberta, guaranteeing delivery within two hours of placing an order.
“In allowing private sector-led cannabis e-commerce and home delivery, Alberta has shown its commitment to helping regulated cannabis retailers effectively compete against and drive out illicit market operators,” CEO Raj Grover says in a statement.
“As the largest cannabis retailer in Alberta, the launch of delivery and e-commerce services will help to solidify our leadership position and gain further market share in the province.”
Third-party delivery services aren’t allowed at the moment, but the provincial regulator didn’t rule out the possibility.
“However, that does require some legislative changes. So certainly it’s something we’re exploring in the future,” AGLC CEO Kandice Machado said on Monday.
She says the new approach for cannabis delivery and online sales gives Albertans more choice, and provides retailers with new opportunities for revenue.
The government’s online store had only accounted for a small amount of income, and the regulator tells Mugglehead that it estimates the AGLC’s net operating income will drop by about $800,000 a year due to withdrawing from online sales.
British Columbia launched cannabis delivery last summer, and Ontario recently decided to keep the service permanently.
Meanwhile, the Yukon has passed amendments to its cannabis legislation. A spokesperson recently told Mugglehead that regulations are under development and will be “finalized as soon as practicable.”
It's official! Daikoku got online sales endorsement from the AGLC. pic.twitter.com/YHWHVbpBl5
— daikoku_ca (@daikoku_ca) March 7, 2022
— Ryan (Cannabis Freddie Mercury) Roch (@LakeCityCanna) March 8, 2022