Is Your BC Retail Operation Prepared for Changes to Canada’s Marijuana Laws?

With changes to Canadian and BC marijuana laws imminent, intense planning and discussion has been underway in BC within provincial government bodies, the private sector, and the public. In April 2017, the Government of Canada introduced the Cannabis Act (Bill C-45) with plans to legalize non-medical cannabis and amend Canada’s Criminal Code by July 2018.

While the BC government sought input (see “BC Cannabis Regulation Engagement” for details) and stakeholders are jockeying for position in the marijuana retail race, there are still many unknowns. What will the control, sale and distribution of marijuana in BC look like? How should retailers ensure their place in what is likely to be a long and competitive queue?

What We Know

The BC Government released its first decisions on cannabis regulation after public and private stakeholder engagement. In that important public release, the government stated, that:

  • Its priority is to “protect young people, health and safety, keeping the criminal element out of cannabis and keeping the roads safe”.
  • The government will “focus on the above priorities when developing BC’s regulatory framework for non-medical cannabis”.
  • While the new legalization of marijuana will regulate commercial production country-wide, each province and territory will regulate “certain aspects like distribution, retail and a range of other matters – as they do for tobacco and liquor”.
  • The BC government states that “BC Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) will be the wholesale distributor of non-medical cannabis in BC”.
  • The BC government “anticipates establishing a retail model that includes both public and private retail opportunities”. The BC government will share the details of that model in early 2018.

How Private Licensee Retail Stores Can Prepare

Recently, Rising Tide Consultants attended the Vancouver Lift Cannabis Expo, the premiere North American cannabis industry event attended by established industry leaders, “potrepreneurs”, consumers, job seekers and the interested public. The excitement at the cannabis expo was palpable and it is obvious that businesses are preparing to capitalize on a new and lucrative market once Bill C-45 is law. Rising Tide Consultants expects that many stakeholders have been strategizing quietly since the proposed Cannabis Act was announced, putting into place go-to-market plans that they can act on as soon as the new cannabis laws are in place. We expect to see new, fully operating companies on the scene overnight, along with established medical marijuana companies ready to compete for a larger piece of the non-medical cannabis consumer pie. Even Shoppers Drug Mart is planning to become a dispensary channel for legal medical-marijuana, recently striking a supply agreement with Tilray Canada Ltd – a BC licensed marijuana producer. That agreement is contingent upon Health Canada’s approval of the Shoppers Drug Mart application to dispense medical marijuana.

BC’s private licensee retail stores (LRS) may not be as prepared – partially because the details about legal retail marijuana sales in BC are still forthcoming – though there are still things you can do now to increase your chances of becoming a licensed retail marijuana seller in BC.

Top Tips for LRS from Rising Tide Consultants

  1. Look at your retail floor plan and see if and how you could incorporate a cannabis products section within your existing space.
  2. Do you have the right team in place? If not, what do you need to do to get prepared and educated?
  3. Why should consumers choose your retail store? How will you communicate this message?
  4. What safety and security practices do you need to put in place to keep staff, consumers and the public safe? Not all cannabis producers are equal, so start learning about reputable growers and manufacturers of cannabis products and make note of manufacturing safety standards, practices, track record, and source of their cannabis. Some producers grow various strains of cannabis, each with unique genetic characteristics and lineage.

Need Help Planning for Marijuana Sales in BC?

If you are currently a licensed liquor retailer and would like to know more about how you can prepare for legal retail marijuana sales in BC, contact the liquor licensing experts at Rising Tide Consultants.