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Regulator Spotlight: LGCA of Manitoba

In Manitoba, the number of retail licenses more than doubled in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021, from just 29 a little over a year ago to 73 stores today. In that environment of retail expansion, the authority “has proposed a plan to move to a more proactive approach for age compliance testing,” says Amanda Creasy, Director  of Strategic Services and Public Affairs. With this, and other upcoming legislation, Manitoba’s Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority (LGCA) is hoping to create a healthy environment for retailers and consumers alike.

Checking Compliance

The LGCA is making plans to engage “minor agents” to determine if cannabis retail licensees are complying with age restrictions on store entry and sales to people under the age of 19.

“Bill 60 was introduced on November 2, 2020, and would amend the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Act to allow the LGCA to hire minors (under 18 years of age) and young persons (under 19 years of age for the purpose of possessing cannabis) as part of its compliance and enforcement activities.”

Under the plan, minors under the supervision of an LGCA inspector would attempt to purchase “age-restricted products” to monitor compliance.

Under the Act, persons under 19 are prohibited from entering age-restricted cannabis stores and staff “are required to ask for ID from anyone who looks youthful.” When they are on site, government inspectors will ask for ID from any person who appears youthful.

Inspectors were visiting retail stores about every second week for the first couple of years after non-medical cannabis was legalized, says Creasy.

“Cannabis licensees initially were assessed to be at a higher risk level due to the industry newness,” she says. “[But] over the past few years, we have observed that cannabis licensees operate as typical retail stores and overall, have been operating in compliance of the terms and conditions of their licences.”

Today, retailers will see an inspector monthly, but “as time passes and more data is collected by the LGCA, further adjustments could occur to the frequency of inspections.”

That, of course, is subject to a licensees’ performance and compliance.

“Generally, a licensee with a strong compliance history will not see their LGCA inspector in their premises as frequently as a licensee that has had breaches in their operations,” notes Creasy.

LGCA uses a progressive discipline model, which begins with information and training when a breach occurs, followed by cautions and written warnings “and, in rare circumstances, referral to the LGCA’s executive director who would issue a formal compliance order as prescribed in The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Act.”

A formal training program for licensees was launched in 2019 and any individual who works in the industry must also take “responsible retailer training,” the province’s Smart Choice Cannabis Retail Certification.

New Tax Bill

A second pending piece of legislation—the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Amendment Act introduced to the House last October—would apply a new tax meant to fund the increasing regulatory burden of retail expansion, public education, and addiction counselling.

The tax as proposed will initially be 6% of gross revenue from the sale of non-medical cannabis, Justice Minister Cliff Cullen said at the time it was announced.

“It would be used to protect vulnerable populations, help eliminate the illegal market, and pay for social costs connected to cannabis use. This approach ensures retailers would share in the social costs of public education, safety, health and addictions,” he said.

Although the tax was announced by the provincial government in 2018, the enabling bill has yet to pass in the legislature.

Well Received Public Health Campaigns

The LCGA is already promoting health-related messaging around cannabis consumption.

“In response to research showing consumption of non-medical cannabis has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, we recently re-ran our Know My Cannabis Limits campaign to increase awareness of strategies to lower risk when consuming cannabis,” says Creasy.

A second campaign aimed at protecting children and pets from inadvertently consuming cannabis “was very well-received.”

Creasy notes, “We received requests for our posters, featuring the message ‘Store cannabis safely’ with the images of a dog and child, from the Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg, medical clinics, and veterinary hospitals around Manitoba.”

Cannabis legalization has been generally well-received across the province with only a half dozen municipal areas opting for prohibition: The Cities of Steinbach and Winkler and the Rural Municipalities of Riding Mountain West, Stanley, Stuartburn, and Wallace Woodworth. While retail sales are prohibited in those municipalities, residents are in no way prohibited from purchasing cannabis elsewhere or consuming it on their own property.

Tags: Amanda Creasy (1), cannabis compliance (3), cannabis store inspections (3), Manitoba cannabis (15), Manitoba Liquor Gaming and Cannabis Authority (1), minor agents (1)