The federal government is in the process of passing legislation which will allow the sale and consumption of recreational cannabis. Some provincial governments, such as the Government of British Columbia, are preparing legislation that would allow private recreational dispensary storefronts. This article discusses what you need to know about the process of obtaining a recreational cannabis dispensary licence in BC to open your own store.
Who Is Eligible to Apply for a Recreational Cannabis Dispensary Licence in BC?
At the moment, no one is explicitly excluded from applying to obtain this retail licence. All applicants will be subjected to the same evaluation requirements. These include whether or not the local government in the area where you want to operate has consented to your wish to open a non-cannabis retail outlet. Thorough background checks are also to be done on each applicant.
People who have a criminal record should not assume that they will not be approved to operate a retail outlet for the sale of non-medical cannabis. Each situation will be evaluated on its own merits.
For example, one may be denied a recreational cannabis dispensary licence in BC if he or she is found to have links to an organized crime operation while another person who was convicted of an offence which has no bearing on drugs or cannabis may be approved.
Similarly, having ever operated an unauthorized cannabis dispensary or clinic will not automatically disqualify you or make it easier for you to be licensed.
Even those who already have a licence to sell tobacco products or alcohol will have to apply if they wish to retail recreational cannabis. However, different premises will be used to sell the recreational cannabis products.
The Application Process
An online application portal will be opened mid-year (2018) so that applicants can complete most of what is required without visiting a physical office.
It is not yet clear how long the application process will take before someone is granted a licence. This is understandable given that the application requirements and procedure can only be decided once the enabling laws have been passed and the relevant agencies of the provincial government design mechanisms to implement those laws.
Everyone wishing to apply will be expected to pay an application fee. A fee will also be paid for the licence in case the application is successful.
Retail Outlet Location
At the moment, the only requirement which the provincial government is imposing is that the sale of non-medical cannabis should be done in a facility that doesn’t sell anything else.
However, there are indications that this restriction may be relaxed for rural areas since it may not make economic sense to establish a standalone outlet for selling recreational cannabis in those rural areas.
The provincial government has allowed local governments to impose any other additional restrictions that they deem fit regarding where these retail outlets should be located. This is the reason why applicants must obtain approval/support from the local government before their application for a licence can be successful.
You will also be expected to provide the PIN (parcel identifier number) for the business location as well as documentary proof of ownership of those premises. Renters should have a lease which is valid for at least a year from the time when one obtains a licence to retail recreational cannabis.
A floor plan should be availed as you submit your application. This plan may help in the assessment of how suitable those premises are for selling non-medical cannabis.
The name you give to your business as a retailer of recreational cannabis will have to be approved by the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch. That name should not mislead people who see it in any way.
For example, the use of the word “clinic” in the business name may imply that one sells medical cannabis. Such a word isn’t allowed for retailers of recreational cannabis since it portrays an inaccurate message about the outlet.
Retailers will be required to acquire one of two possible licences. One type of licence will be for retailers who will operate self-contained retail outlets. The second type of licence will be given to applicants in rural areas. As already stated, retailers in rural areas may have a different set of rules, such as the kind of premises where the non-medical cannabis will be sold. As of this time of writing, the official rules have yet to be announced for this special type of recreational cannabis dispensary licence in BC.
The current licensing plans are still focused on retail outlets. As of this moment, it appears vapour lounges and other consumption lounges will not be allowed initially. You may need to wait longer in case you have interest in operating a consumption lounge for recreational cannabis.
Cannabis Store Operations
The layout or construction of the premises in which you want to retail recreational cannabis should be tailored towards preventing the products from being seen by someone outside the premises.
Minors. Minors are not allowed to enter premises in which non-medical cannabis is sold. This restriction applies even if the minor approaches the premises with an adult.
Operating Hours. You will be expected to open your business at around 9am and close at 11pm. However, local authorities may impose additional restrictions on these hours of operation.
Product Pricing. All retailers of recreational cannabis will source their stock from the Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB). This implies that all retailers will receive the products at nearly the same cost. Plans are ongoing to design a policy which will regulate the prices at which the retailers will sell these products to the end consumers.
Quantities Sold to Individuals. The federal law being debated for enactment proposes that the maximum amount of non-medical cannabis which one can have in public is 30grams of dried cannabis. This amount provides the limit which a retailer can sell to one person at once. The different products, such as cannabis oil, should be aggregated so that the combined quantity of what has been bought doesn’t exceed this weight limit.
Online Sales. Private retailers of recreational cannabis will not be allowed to conduct online sales of the products. However, appropriate measures and laws will be put in place in future to authorize and regulate such sales.
Product Deliveries. Licensed retailers of non-medical cannabis will not be permitted to deliver their merchandise to customers. Buyers must visit the premises of the retailer in order to purchase the products.
Employees in Retail Outlets. Arrangements are being made by the provincial authorities to determine how employees in the licensed retail outlets will be trained to do their work once they have undergone screening (background checks, for example) in accordance with the set requirements. The provincial government will let the concerned people know once these training plans are completed.
Storage of Products. All your inventory will only be stored within the approved premises where the business is conducted. You should never take any of your stock for off-site storage. You should therefore make sure that you have ample security to prevent the recreational cannabis from being stolen or accessed by non-authorized individuals.
Products to Be Sold. The licence which you obtain will permit you to sell recreational cannabis and its associated products. The primary products include dried cannabis, cannabis oil and cannabis seeds. The permitted accessories include wraps, pipes, vaporizers and anything else which is needed during the process of consuming non-medical cannabis.
As you can see, the licensing plans are in an advanced stage. Make sure that you learn all the final requirements once they are made available on the online portal referred to earlier. Periodic inspections will be conducted and sanctions will be imposed in case you are found in breach of the terms under which you obtained the licence. The onus is therefore on you to keep updating your knowledge of all the requirements as you serve your customers.
Do you find these licensing requirements fair? Are there any grey areas that haven’t been addressed as yet? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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