Alberta’s online cannabis market will change overnight March 8, shifting government responsibilities to more than 700 licensed cannabis retailers in the private sector.

Currently, the province’s only legal, non-medical online cannabis store is operated through a website run by government-owned cannabis wholesaler and regulator Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC).

But under a legal change passed by the Legislative Assembly of Alberta in last year, the online orders section of the website will be shut down permanently next month.

“Starting March 8, 2022, licensed cannabis retailers in Alberta will be able to offer online sales of cannabis products,” AGLC stated on its website. “Licensed cannabis retailers will continue to offer choices in legal, high-quality products for consumers. With over 700 licensed cannabis retailers there is sure to be one close to you.”

AGLC generated roughly CA$200,000 per year in government revenue through the website’s cannabis sales, according to Legislative Assembly member Sarah Hoffman.

Hoffman spoke in opposition to the change during last year’s legislative session, equating that money to the salaries of two teachers.

“The government, in this bill, is deciding that they’re going to forego that income, and they’re going to pass it on to corporate entities, friends, and insiders, it seems, through the dissolution of AGLC in terms of the online cannabis sales,” she said.

The legal shift provides new opportunities, including both online adult-use sales and delivery, to licensed stores in Canada’s competitive market.

While Alberta is the country’s fourth-largest province by population, it cleaned up on the cannabis retail front with CA$716.7 million in sales in 2021, representing the second-largest provincial cannabis market, according to Statistics Canada. Alberta trailed only Ontario’s CA$1.5-billion haul in 2021 sales, while Quebec totaled CA$601 million and British Columbia had CA$556.2 million.

RELATED: Canada’s Cannabis Retail Features 50% YoY Growth in 2021

As Alberta’s adult-use retail licensees are racing to prepare for the launch of online and delivery services, some operators have experienced running such services in other provinces.

High Tide, which runs 58 Canna Cabana stores in Alberta, is ready to expand from its online operations in Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the company’s chief revenue officer, Andy Palalas, recently told CBC News.

“We’ve done a pretty good job that we can operate online sales and home delivery in a safe, secure manner,” he said. “It’s a big part of our strategy for addressing the illicit market.”

Private-sector cannabis providers must have a brick-and-mortar retail store in order to sell cannabis online in Alberta. Businesses can use their own delivery personnel, the Canada Post or a courier service, according to AGLC.

Potential participants in the new market opportunity must apply to expand their licenses to online stores, and AGLC inspectors have to approve any website, which must include gates to verify a shopper’s age, before it goes live.

In addition, delivery personnel must ensure they never deliver to minors or “intoxicated” patrons, according to AGLC.

AGLC officials have yet to endorse any forthcoming website, CBC News reported Feb. 21.

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