Cannabis industry advocates are welcoming the Alberta’s latest changes to rules around selling the product, including opening the door for sales at some festivals and events.

The provincial government announced updates to the Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Regulation on Monday, set to take effect at the end of January.

The changes will allow licensed cannabis retailers to set up temporary sales at adults-only events, like trade shows and festivals. They also ease some of the restrictions around how store owners can transfer product between different locations and lift the requirement to store product in a secure area off the shop floor while the store is closed.

A statement from the province says the aim is to reduce barriers for businesses and “better combat the illegal market.”

Diplomat Consulting president Nathan Mison, who advocates for cannabis regulatory changes, said allowing cannabis sales at events is an important step toward fostering new hospitality and tourism ventures.

“We believe that on-site sales for cannabis gardens, or thoughts like a cannabis and food festival, create a significant opportunity for us to show and steward those ‘cannabis-curious’ people who would be interested.”

Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) still has to finalize the policies that accompany the changes.

A spokesperson for Alberta’s Ministry of Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction said in a statement that cannabis retailers would be allowed to sell product at events “that are exclusively adults-only.” 

Mison and other industry representatives have asked for broader access, with events allowed to set up areas that bar minors, like a beer garden, where cannabis could be sold and consumed.

In Edmonton and Calgary, city bylaws already allow smoking or vaping cannabis at outdoor festivals and public events, but only in designated areas. And in those cases, selling cannabis on site isn’t allowed.

In 2018, Chris Felgate was Alberta’s first cannabis retailer to finish all the regulatory approvals and get an AGLC licence to open his Devon store, Small Town Buds.

He said he’s been calling ever since for the government to lift the condition that cannabis products have to be locked in a separate storeroom for closing hours.

Chris Felgate runs Small Town Buds, a cannabis store in Devon, Alta., just southwest of Edmonton. (Submitted by Chris Felgate)

“Early legalization, when I had to staff very heavy because there weren’t a lot of stores open … it was costing us about $40,000 or $45,000 a year to stock and take down our shelves,” he said.

Felgate said he’s managing his employment costs differently now, but he estimates that the process of moving all the product back and forth every day still costs him $25,000 per year.

He said cannabis retailers already follow stringent security measures in the terms of their licence, and store owners in other provinces weren’t subject to the same storage procedures.

Doug Zimmerman runs Glenora Cannabis and two Cannabis Cellar locations in Edmonton with his family. They had to specifically plan to put all their displays on wheels, so they could move in and out of secure storage quickly.

Zimmerman said he plans to keep the practice as an extra security measure, but he knows it’s been a headache for other business owners.

“We’ve hired people who came from larger chains, and they have way more display cases,” he said.

“In those shops … it would take hours for people to empty that floor and then reopen in the morning.”

Both business owners said it’s encouraging to see reforms, but it’s been a very gradual process over five years of legalization.

“There is a ton that still needs to be addressed by the provincial government, the AGLC, the federal government and Health Canada,” Felgate said.

 Updated provincial regulations also also ease restrictions around how store owners can transfer product between different locations and lift the requirement to move product to a secured storage area at closing time.  Read More