Since British Columbia has a mixed model of public and private cannabis stores, the disparity between the two models is glaring to private retailers. For example, the BC Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) operates an online store and uses a third party to deliver cannabis products to consumers and can ship directly from its distribution centre, but private cannabis stores are prohibited from using these services and must deliver directly from their own stores. Another contentious issue is that the government has no limit on the number of BC Cannabis Stores (BCCS) that can be operated, but private chains can only have eight stores in the province.
Cannabis Retailer reached out to the LDB for clarification on why there are different operating rules for public vs. private stores and following are the replies to our questions.
Q: If cannabis retailers are required to deliver their own cannabis rather than using a third party, how is the LDB allowed to use Pineapple Express for deliveries and ship direct from the distribution centre?
The LDB’s online store operates independently from the BCCS brick-and-mortar outlets. As the only provincial online store, third party delivery is permitted to ensure British Columbians are provided safe, regulated non-medical cannabis regardless of where they live.
The LDB has always used a third-party service to deliver cannabis from the online store – switching to Pineapple Express Delivery is not a new service, just a change in the delivery service provider for the Greater Vancouver area.
Like private cannabis retail stores, the brick-and-mortar BCCS cannot use third-party delivery services.
The Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch is aware of private retailer’s desire to use third-party delivery services and is working on options for government’s consideration as a priority.
Q: The maximum number of cannabis stores that one entity can own in BC is 8, so how is it possible that the LDB runs over 40 stores?
At the time of legalization, the provincial government established a mixed model for cannabis retail and tasked the LDB with operating the government-run retail stores.
In BC, legal non-medical cannabis can be purchased from licensed, privately-run cannabis retail stores (CRS) or government-operated BCCS.
CRSs are licensed and regulated under the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act (CCLA), the associated regulations and the CRS Terms and Conditions handbook.
Section 6 of the Cannabis Licensing Regulation (CLR) outlines the restrictions on the number of CRS licences that may be held. Section 6(1.1) of the CLR specifies that “for the purposes of section 26 (3.1) (a) and (b) of the Act, the prescribed number of licences is eight licences.”
BCCS are not subject to the licensing requirements stated in the CCLA or CLR.
Q: Why are government-run stores not subject to the same licensing requirements stated in the CCLA or CLR?
The LDB including its network of BCCS is governed by the Cannabis Distribution Act, while private retailers are required to comply with the Cannabis Licensing Regulation, regulated by the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB). The model for public and private cannabis retail stores follows the same model as is in place for liquor retail stores.
Q: The LDB is no longer the only online store since private retailers are now allowed to sell online, so why are there different rules for the LDB?
The LDB’s online store operates independently from the BCCS bricks-and-mortar outlets. As the only provincial online store, third-party delivery is permitted to ensure British Columbians are provided safe, regulated non-medical cannabis no matter where they live. This ensures that people who live in communities that don’t have access to legal bricks and mortar cannabis stores (e.g., Surrey, Richmond, and many rural communities) have convenient access to non-medical cannabis.