Canada’s Provinces Transition From Medical-Only to Adult-Use Cannabis Sales

Canada’s Provinces Transition From Medical-Only to Adult-Use Cannabis Sales

British Columbia and Quebec offer insight into their order fulfillment processes.

October 18, 2018

Legal adult-use cannabis sales launched across Canada Oct. 17, and government-run corporations began overseeing product distribution in their provinces. While Ontario will only offer online sales until spring 2019 when storefronts will be licensed and operational, provinces such as British Columbia and Quebec rolled out a combination of online ordering services and brick-and-mortar stores. 

B.C.’s first government-owned store is now open, and the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch—the government branch responsible for licensing cannabis retailers—has approved about 70 permits for stores that now need municipal approval, according to Viviana Zanocco, B.C.’s Liquor Distribution Branch communications manager.

“Here in B.C., the process is that every municipality has the right to say ‘no’ or ‘yes’ to any application,” Zanocco told Cannabis Dispensary. “They could say ‘no, we don’t want any cannabis at all,’ or ‘we want government stores,’ or ‘we only want private stores,’ and so on.”

B.C. launched online sales at midnight Wednesday, she added, and had amassed roughly 3,400 transactions by 11:00 a.m.

The Canada Post will deliver the cannabis products, much like it did for the medical-only market, Zanocco said. Couriers will conduct age verification upon delivery—individuals must be at least 19 years old to purchase cannabis, and someone age 25 or older must accept the delivery, she said.

The B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch is the sole wholesale cannabis distributor in the province. It is the only entity that can accept product from Canada’s licensed producers and make it available to private and public retailers. This is the same model that exists for liquor distribution, according to Zanocco.

“It’s been really fast,” she said. “The federal government has seen it coming for a little while, but here in B.C., we just had a change of provincial government last year. The previous government had made a decision, and it was this government that tasked us with doing retail sales in February, so we had to come up with a model and store design and business processes and banking processes and all those things by the time legalization came in. It’s been a bit of a push—that’s the understatement of the year. But our team has been amazingly agile and very responsive in putting together a store and an online experience that people are responding to very positively.”

In Quebec, the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC) opened 12 storefronts for the launch of adult-use sales and is also running an online ordering system, according to Mathieu Gaudreault, SQDC media relations officer. Like in B.C., Post Canada will deliver cannabis products in the province, and it will conduct age and identity verifications upon delivery. Cannabis products cannot be left in mailboxes or on doorsteps.

Quebec has a distribution warehouse for online sales, Gaudreault said. Licensed producers deliver product to that warehouse, where orders are prepared for Post Canada to ship to consumers.

“Post Canada is already the entity that delivers the wine for the liquor department in Quebec, so it will basically be the same system,” Gaudreault said.

SQDC is not a for-profit entity, he added; its only objective is to distribute legal cannabis products to consumers. “We have been put forward to distribute the product to the people who are using it right now, to take it from the black market to the legal market.”

Top Image: © Natalia Pushchina | Adobe Stock