News / Edmonton

E-cannabis: Licensed producers push for legal online sales

Liquor store association advocates for storefronts as businesses weigh in on Alberta's regulatory framework

A group of 12 licensed cannabis producers is pushing for online sales in Alberta.

The newly formed Canadian Cannabis Co-Op Working Group announced plans to set up headquarters in the province Thursday, after the government released its draft cannabis framework.

The framework is iffy when it comes to Internet sales – Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley said online shopping will likely not be part of the initial plan, without a way to ensure buyers and sellers are of legal age – but the co-op claims to have a solution.

“We think that we can really take those learnings that we’ve got from the medical cannabis space and apply those to a recreational market,” said co-op chair Darren Karasiuk.

He said Canada’s licensed producers already have high-level, age-gated security technology, and argued that online sales will be the only way to reach every corner of the province when legalization takes effect next July.

“One of the key underpinnings of getting rid of the black market is providing an environment that is conducive to shopping, and that’s both on and offline,” Karasiuk said.

The co-op is also pushing for private retail sales of cannabis, with a plan to add more producers to its ranks and set up headquarters and storefronts in Alberta.  

The province is using an online survey to help determine whether its stores will go private – like Alberta’s liquor stores – or be run by the public sector, as per Ontario’s cannabis plan.

Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley told media Wednesday that while government-run stores could turn profits in the long run, they would also put more upfront costs on the province in an already pricey implementation process.

Ganley did say cannabis dispensaries will not be combined with stores that sell alcohol or tobacco, but Alberta Liquor Stores Association President Ivonne Martinez said liquor store operators are precisely the people who should be running cannabis shops.

“It would be very simple, economical – because the government wouldn’t have to spend any taxpayers’ money to build – and it would create economic development,” Martinez told Metro.

She said she agreed vodka should not be on the same shelf as ganja, but proposed that a bigger liquor store build a wall and add a separate cannabis shop in the same building, with a different entrance.

Martinez noted liquor stores are already located far from schools and playgrounds and sell to only adults, and that they run community awareness programs around liquor safety that could expand to include cannabis.

“We understand the concerns from Health Canada around using both substances,” she said.

“What we can do is provide you the best information possible. We are serving to adults, after all, and we hope that Albertans will make good decisions for themselves.”

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