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Regulator Spotlight: AGLC

Albertans are spending more money on non-medical cannabis products than citizens of any other province, driven by a relentless expansion in the number of retail outlets.

At last count, more than 731 stores are operating across Alberta, up from 387 in the 2019-20 fiscal year. That’s falling behind Ontario’s 1295, but the foothills province has just one third of Ontario’s population.

Business-Friendly Approach

With $59.7 million dollars in sales in May, Alberta is second in the nation, outpacing even British Columbia and Quebec, according to the most recent data from Statistics Canada. With just 12% of Canada’s population, Albertans represent 19% of total retail cannabis sales.

There’s a reason for that.

Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) has taken a decidedly business-friendly approach to non-medical cannabis retail.

“AGLC is committed to enabling business, mitigating risks, and modernizing systems to support the continued growth of Alberta’s cannabis industry,” said Steve Lautischer, Acting Vice-President, Gaming and Cannabis. “We have streamlined processes and worked with stakeholders to identify efficiencies and opportunities, while remaining focused on providing Albertans with access to safe non-medical cannabis products, keeping cannabis out of the hands of children and youth and limiting the illicit cannabis market.”

Alberta adds no markup to its wholesale prices, and further, promises the same price for products no matter where they are delivered.

“Central distribution ensures a level playing field for all retailers and prevents small or remote retailers from being penalized for delivery costs by making sure product is shipped at the same price no matter where it’s going,” the Commission says.

And the government has no plans to enter the retail business.

“There are no plans for government-owned stores in Alberta and we continue to support the private retail cannabis business in Alberta,” the AGLC said in a written interview.

Keeping Stores Compliant

The commission is hardly a hands-off operation, though, with some of the strictest inspection standards in the country.

Retail cannabis stores are inspected at least 16 times per year. Four of those are maintenance inspections, where the premises are physically inspected.

“The remaining 12 are operating checks to ensure stores conduct sales correctly and no minors or intoxicated individuals are present,” the AGLC said.  In addition to these inspections, stores also receive “Under 25 reviews” in which agents under 25 years old attend the store to ensure identification is requested.

Nearly 22,000 retail workers have been certified by Alberta’s mandatory SellSafe training program, which ensures that retail employees understand their responsibilities and how to prevent minors from purchasing cannabis.

It seems to be working.

Since legalization, fewer than 10 fines have been issued to retailers for failing to examine the identification of someone who appears to be under the age of 25. A handful of fines have also been handed out to retailers who fail to properly lock up their products.

Meeting Customer Needs

AGLC continues to aggressively add product to the wholesale roster. As of June 2021, retailers have their pick of 465 dried flower SKUs, 311 pre-rolls, 113 edibles and 56 beverages.

Like other Canadian markets, “high THC is one of the primary factors for dried flower sales. As the market matures, consumers are also looking more at terpene profiles,” the commission says. “There are constantly new products coming on to the market, including new formats. Newer ones are more related to health and edibles.”

At least 18 of the 100 licensed producers that supply AGLC are based in Alberta.

The commission acts as an intermediary between retailers and licensed producers, taking product requests through account managers and the Alberta Cannabis Call Centre and passing them on to LPs. New product arrivals are flagged to retailers through a weekly newsletter.

“We’re always trying to source a variety of products to meet consumer needs. If customers ask for it, we will bring it in,” the commission said.

Tags: AGLC (36), Alberta cannabis (55), Alberta Gaming Liquor and Cannabis (12), Canada Cannabis (138), cannabis central distribution (1), cannabis compliance (3), Cannabis Retail (398), private retail cannabis (1), SellSafe (3), Steve Lautischer (1)