Bill C-45 has become the centre of many discussions. Its implementation enables adults in Canada to legally purchase cannabis for recreational use. The proposed Cannabis Distribution Act (CDA) establishes a province’s authority over the wholesale distribution of cannabis. Additionally, the proposed Cannabis Control and Licensing Act (CCLA) delegates provincial control over the sale, supply and possession of non-medical cannabis, and facilitates the licensing of private cannabis retailers, including registration and training requirements for those who will work in cannabis retail. The act defines the conditions on the possession, personal cultivation and consumption of cannabis by adults and prohibitions for minors.

Cannabis is purchased in two ways:

  1. in stores by licensed retailers; and
  2. online by federally or provincially operated businesses.

Businesses that wish to produce cannabis must undergo an application process to qualify as a licensed producer, in addition to meeting the conditions stated by the BC Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB) if they also wish to be a private retailer.

Those who wish to apply for a private, non-medical, cannabis retail store licence must use the cannabis licensing application portal. The Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch assesses the applications.

Local Governments

On October 17, 2018, the province of British Columbia began granting licences for non-medical cannabis retail stores. The process requires that the applicant’s store meet a series of qualifications including:

  • Being a standalone business.
  • A positive recommendation from the prospective location’s local government.

In an attempt to address the concerns of many people regarding regulating access to non-medical cannabis in rural areas, the province has established a system whereby licences in rural areas will only be issued if they are not already being sufficiently serviced by existing cannabis stores.

A rough outline of the licensing process goes as follows:

  1. Applicants must submit an application to the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB).
  2. The LCRB will notify the local government as to where the store will be located.
  3. The local government will then do one of the following:
    1. Not make a recommendation, thus ending the application process.
    2. Make a positive recommendation towards the application; however, the local government is also responsible of abiding by certain regulations, including gathering the input of local residents.

Important Considerations

As a cannabis retailer, your utmost priority should be to comply with the federal, provincial, and local legislation.

License holders are obligated to document certain records for the entire duration that the license is valid in addition to six months after it has been cancelled or expired. These records include, but are not limited to:

  • Accessory sales
  • Employee records
  • Wholesale purchases,
  • Retail sales including price charged and quantity sold
  • Cannabis disposal

Additionally, a single licensee is able to possess or have interest in up to eight retail cannabis licenses. However, be wary of the fees associated with the licensing process. Because of the security screening and financial checks involved, each application is currently $7,500 with an additional annual fee of $1,500 to keep the license valid.

Lastly, a common misunderstanding is that if you possess a liquor and/or tobacco license, you are also able to distribute cannabis. This is not the case. A separate retail license application must be completed and if granted, cannabis still cannot be sold at your liquor and/or tobacco location — find a separate storefront.

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