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Will BC Remove the 8-Store Cap?

Last year, the BC provincial government announced it was reviewing restrictions on the retail license cap. Six months later there is still no decision.

Under the current rules, a cannabis retail licensee in BC cannot hold or have an interest in more than eight retail cannabis stores.

Government Needs More Time

In recent letters sent to BC’s Alliance of Beverage Licensees (ABLE BC) and the Licensed Retail Cannabis Council of BC, the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General says it needs more time before it decides on potential changes to retail cannabis rules, including the store cap.

Minister Mike Farnworth writes, “In a dedicated pursuit of continuous improvement and industry responsiveness, the LCRB is committed to reviewing and refining these market controls. As you are aware, most recently, the LCRB concluded an engagement which specifically focused on license cap considerations. This collaborative effort involved discussion with industry partners and licensees, fostering a constructive dialogue to ensure a well-rounded understanding of the intricacies involved. The LCRB has now completed initial analysis of the feedback from this engagement and will now move on to explore other possible market controls.”

The letter goes onto say, “As the LCRB continues to review cannabis market controls, they will also be looking at distance criteria and tied house restrictions, including ‘white label’ products.”

In 2022, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario banned white label products, only to reverse their decision. In 2023, Alberta, Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis announced it was also considering the possibility of allowing white label cannabis products in the province.

Industry Group Lobbies for Cap Increase

ABLE BC, the industry advocate for BC’s bars, pubs, and private liquor and cannabis stores, has been lobbying government to increase the store cap.

Bo Chen, Head of Cannabis Membership says, “We’ve heard clearly from industry that a cap on retail licenses make sense, because it prevents large monopoly chains from disrupting our market. But a small increase to 12 or 16 stores—combined with a regulated minimum distance between new stores—would really help. It would support incremental growth for those already at the cap while protecting individual businesses at their current size. We also know from our experience in the liquor retail industry that distance rules protect revenues and the value of a businesses.” Liquor stores must be separated by 1 km in BC.

Chen says ABLE BC has talked extensively with Minister Farnworth about this issue, adding “The Minister seems committed to doing what’s best for industry, which means it will take several months to analyze these proposals properly.”

Other policy changes ABLE BC is advocating for include:

  • Improve the LDB’s Direct Delivery Program via tied house white labelling so producers can maintain margins and retailers can benefit from savings or offer diverse products
  • Increase allowable THC limits
  • Reduce taxes and fees
  • Curtail the illicit market
  • Relax promotional and advertising restrictions

“Our purpose is to support the financial health of BC’s cannabis retailers so they can grow and thrive,” Chen says. “Right now, cannabis retailers are over-taxed, over-regulated, and it’s far too hard to make a living under these current rules. Industry has been operating with handcuffs on—we want to change that with business-friendly policies.”

Main Photo Credit: BC’s Alliance of Beverage Licensees
Minister Farnworth (centre) pictured with ABLE BC’s Head of Cannabis Membership Bo Chen, Cannabis Policy Committee Chair Steve Dowsley, President Yvan Charette, and Executive Director Jeff Guignard.


Tags: ABLE BC (4), Alliance of Beverage Licensees (3), BC cannabis retail (25), BC cannabis store (28), BC Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General (10), British Columbia cannabis (45), British Columbia Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (12), Cannabis Regulations (104), LCRB (14), Mike Farnworth (11)