Cannabis sampling is not currently allowed in British Columbia, but BC’s regulatory body, the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch is currently reviewing the rules about sampling between licensees, such as federal producers and provincial licensees, according to a statement from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.
Jaclynn Pehota, Executive Director of the Retail Cannabis Council of BC (RCCBC), says, “As we move into a more mature market and something that has been normalized, and we have established marketing channels and brands, it is really challenging in this environment to set yourself apart in the market as a producer using just the branding. Realistically speaking, the product has to do a lot of the talking and heavy lifting for you.”
Pehota believes that allowing cannabis sampling in the province would add a level of transparency and marketing support without being in conflict with the intent of the Cannabis Act. “Sampling would enable people to make better business decisions,” she says. “Retailers are currently in a position where they’re investing a lot of money in these products. There’s not any guarantee that what they’re being promised is necessarily going to be reflected in the right end product when having these marketing conversations with producers.”
Pehota is clear the RCCBC does not want to add any additional red tape for licensees by the government allowing sampling. The RCCBC has been advocating to allow sample sizes that are reflective of what the wholesaler and consumer would actually buy. “By doing that, we don’t add additional packaging needs, have to register new SKUs and products with various governments, etc.,” she explains.
Pehota acknowledges it could be challenging for government to determine how much is the ‘right amount’ to allow for sampling. She hopes it will be left to businesses to make the decision as to how many samples should be allowed in a marketing capacity.
The Ministry did not provide a timeline on when they will make any decisions on whether or not to allow sampling.
Other Provinces Allow Sampling
While cannabis sampling is not currently allowed in BC, some other provinces allow it. In March 2023, Alberta changed its regulations to allow licensed producers to give samples to retailers. The change was largely met with encouragement by producers, albeit with some questions about the details of the regulations.
At the time of the announcement, Tim Mallett, CEO and Co-Founder of Alberta Bud Inc., said, “It will make some difference for producers. We’ll be able to bring in samples and allow budtenders to smell and try them, and that is a huge step forward from where we are now. It is much easier to allow retailers to experience your product in the proper way.”
Robyn Rabinovich, VP of Marketing at Aurora Cannabis, added, “We’re always looking for unique tools to further educate budtenders and retailers on how our product can stand out and differentiate itself from a large number of products in the markets. We look at sampling as truly another way to support retailers on helping them to be as educated as possible.”
Sampling is also allowed in Ontario and Saskatchewan.