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Amid feasibility concerns for smaller retailers, Alberta allows private online sale of cannabis

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Starting Tuesday, selling cannabis online will become the responsibility of private retailers in Alberta instead of the province.

Normally, Albertans would visit the website run by the Alberta, Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission (AGLC). That website will go dark Tuesday and licenced retailers will be able to offer online products and deliver them to consumers.

In order to sell and deliver cannabis products, retailers need to apply to the AGLC for accreditation, use an age verification program and undergo a compliance check.

While the province has more than 750 cannabis stores, only five companies have received approval from the AGLC — permitting 74 locations to ship and sell online.

Fourteen websites remain under review by the AGLC and if approved, 18 more locations would be added.

"There's several major players that are saying they're not going to make tomorrow's deadline," said John Pracejus, a University of Alberta professor and the academic director for the Centre for Cities and Communities.

"Alberta is requiring some things that other provinces that have moved to this model have not," he added. "The age verification programs are somewhat more stringent than other provinces."

Cannabis giant Alcanna says it will not be offering delivery options come Tuesday, but will consider it in the future.

CONCERNS ABOUT FEASIBILITY

Some independent retailers suggest online sales will not be a viable option, given some of the AGLC requirements.

"You're going to have to hire a delivery driver so that means an added wage, potentially gas, vehicle insurance, commercial liability," said Joshua Vera, owner of Elevate Cannabis.

"By the time you make your delivery, there's really no margin to be made and it's just not feasible," he added. "It's no favour to independent retailers."

The AGLC says it is exploring the option for third-party delivery companies like Uber Eats or Skip the Dishes to be allowed to offer cannabis. Third-party delivery companies started offering alcohol in 2020.

A full list of cannabis retailers offering delivery options will be posted on the AGLC website on Tuesday. 

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