The Alberta government has signalled it would back off from online cannabis sales and home delivery to let private retailers take over, the type of change that industry businesses across Canada have been calling for.
On Thursday, the government introduced Bill 80: the Red Tape Reduction Implementation Act, 2021, which if passed, would take the provincially-run e-commerce portal offline and transition online sales, home delivery and curbside pick up to private retailers within 90 days.
Alberta Cannabis is currently the only online retail and delivery service authorized in the province, but the change may make Alberta the first provincial store to stop participating in e-commerce and delivery sales.
Ontario and B.C. have allowed private retailers to sell online and deliver weed, but both provinces still maintain their provincially-run online stores.
Ending the provincial monopoly of the online store is being welcomed by those in Alberta’s cannabis industry.
If the bill goes through, it would provide a shot in the arm to private pot shops, who have been competing with the government-owned entity that’s also their sole wholesale provider, says Raj Grover, president and CEO of High Tide, the largest Alberta-based cannabis retailer.
“Alberta has once again shown that it is a province that believes in the free market,” he said in a statement.
“Licensed cannabis retailers have proven in other provinces that we can operate online sales and home delivery in a safe and secure manner, allowing adults to have timely access to the regulated and quality-controlled products that they want while ensuring that, unlike illicit market operators, access to youth is strictly forbidden.”
And the proposal could be a game-changer for many small businesses, says Ryan Roch, executive director of Lake City Cannabis.
“We hope that this means we can execute quickly on further opportunities to expand our business and revenue and create more jobs and sustainability,” he tells Mugglehead.
“On a more important note, this change will better support those with mobility issues. Our ability to deliver directly to those people on very short notice will increase the quality of life and were excited to be a part of that.”
Today is a huge step forward for unlocking the cannabis sector in Alberta. Removing government from Cannabis creates greater opportunity to see sustained success for our #cannabis sector. Thank you to all involved , especially @abcannabisvoice and the leadership of the @AGLC https://t.co/nm3lRte2AI
— Nathan Mison (@MisonNathan) November 4, 2021
The Alberta Cannabis Council says the legislation will create a competitive online market and accelerate growth in the industry.
“We are glad to see the government recognize the economic strength of the legal cannabis industry through removing some of the red-tape in the industry,” said Scott Treasure, chair of the ACC.
“These advocacy priorities for us have been top of mind for our members as we work to accelerate business growth, combat the illicit market, support consumer choice, and promote innovation in a fast-paced industry.”
The council notes that Alberta’s retail cannabis sales have averaged $5.1 million since January 2021, and the province has the highest number of regulated stores, with more than 645 approved retailers.
Meanwhile, the Yukon is working toward e-commerce and delivery for private retailers, which requires changes to the territory’s legislation, and Manitoba may be the first province to permit third-party companies to deliver weed for retailers.