While Canada is ahead of the US with federal legalization of cannabis, some Canadian provinces are still in the midst of establishing their delivery and online ordering operations. Delivery is already available in several provinces, including British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario—many of which legalized an increase in cannabis ordering options to comply with COVID-19 lockdown demands. Saskatchewan was the first, launching same-day delivery in 2019. Effective March 8 2022, the AGLC (Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission) will be removing the cannabis online ordering section of their website, enabling private cannabis retailers to conduct online sales and delivery in Alberta.
How delivery works in Canada & how this new rule can open the economy
To understand the differences in ordering cannabis online in Canada, you should familiarize yourself with the market. Historically, to maintain compliance, Alberta’s provincial website was the sole option for online cannabis ordering and pickup (also known as click and collect). This enabled shoppers to receive mailed packages containing their cannabis products in the regular post. The only disadvantage for consumers was prolonged delivery times, which ultimately hurt medical users who couldn’t afford to wait to receive their order.
Now, in an effort to boost the economy, the provincial website is removing itself as a competitor. The possibilities are moving fast with 744 stores in Alberta, second only to Ontario. With the proper licensing, a cannabis retailer will now have the option to deliver outside of their city zone and cover more remote areas, making cannabis more accessible to consumers throughout the province. This should boost the convenience of online orders and increase future revenue. Since delivery is not a matter of if but when, it's better that private retailers drive this evolution.
More perks of bringing online cannabis sales and delivery to Alberta:
Built to help small businesses thrive
Now that cannabis ordering is expanding online, Alberta should look out for some key rules to stay compliant and even apply to the AGLC more efficiently as these new opportunities open up. If you are a smaller operation, know that that doesn’t pose a threat, because 3rd-party delivery isn’t allowed yet, and you can thank the little guys. They advocated for this rule because they have trouble competing with chain operators, and it makes the delivery possibilities more fair to all business sizes.
To further clarify, you aren’t allowed to contract out a 3rd-party service to perform it, but you could contract a driver. That individual just needs to have a contract with the licensed store. Mom-and-pop cannabis retailers can even consider sharing the cost of a driver with another local retailer. Delivery is not car-specific either, so if cost is a concern, you could send a driver via bicycle if the route is close. You can also use a car that is privately owned by your staff. (In BC specifically, the delivery vehicle has to be owned by the cannabis retail business.) This is an example of a way for smaller retailers to get creative, but there are other ways to learn the how-tos of delivery from successful provinces like Ontario.
More delivery tips in Canada:
— Check ID to ensure that the person receiving the order is 18 or older.
— Check that the credit card presented matches the one used to place the order (highly recommended to minimize online fraud).
How to showcase your delivery options & age-gate accordingly
How can you market that your store now offers delivery? Set minimum order amounts, flag that you are offering delivery on your website & social channels, but remember not to associate it with a discount or financial incentive for compliance reasons. You must also hard age-gate your site to be compliant with AGLC’s standards.
Hard age-gating needs to be put in place to limit minors from purchasing or viewing prohibited promotional content. The retailer must verify the customer prior to viewing these materials. Once a customer's age and identity are verified, then that customer can log in and shop all products.
This industry is all about learning from one another and helping one another. If Alberta retailers can learn from Ontario and BC to avoid expensive mistakes and help solve their potential delivery challenges, then everybody wins. With that in mind, what might be next on the horizon in Alberta? At Dutchie we are hearing whispers that consumption lounges may be in the future, along with temporary permits to sell cannabis at events and festivals. This could inspire some future ideas for more economic-boosting creativity for cannabis retailers.
Why Dutchie is the right partner to help you grow
Dutchie is the first and only ecommerce solution to have officially passed the ecommerce audit of AGCO (in Ontario). We built and continue to craft our product roadmap with a compliance-first mentality. At the start of COVID-19, Dutchie was also the first ecommerce solution to provide online payments during Ontario’s emergency order, where licensed cannabis retailers were mandated to only take payments online (in-store payments were not allowed). With solutions that are flexible to regulations and built to scale, Dutchie is here to help your cannabis business start, operate, and grow with confidence.
To learn more about delivery in Alberta, check out our own Canadian whiz and Head of Strategic Growth, Anne Forkutza’s video, What you need to know about Alberta cannabis online ordering and delivery.
Reviewed by the regulatory pros at Diplomat Consulting.