Calgary was buzzing about the concept of legalizing cannabis in 2018, but untested policies and government run organizations, such as the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission (AGLC) posed a concern for the industry.
Some retailers are voicing concerns about AGLC’s regulations restricting the sale and profitability of small businesses in this new market.
Since the legalization of cannabis last October, retailers have been able to distribute recreational cannabis. The question remains, how has the AGLC’s policies held up in this exploding market?
Ashley Newman, the owner of Queen of Bud, voiced her concerns about how under prepared the AGLC is to support small businesses and deal with the supply and demand of the industry.
“The AGLC only deals with recreational [cannabis], they don't deal with medical [cannabis], that would be Health Canada…. I know that they have their own sales but as you can see they are usually sold out online, It’s just not enough product altogether,” she said.
The AGLC and its guidelines have been trying to create order in the chaos of a rapidly growing market, however despite their best efforts, they have already fallen short.
Waiting game for cannabis shops
With a recent cannabis shortage in Canada, the AGLC suspended all new applications for licenses to sell cannabis on Nov. 21, 2018. At the time of publication, small cannabis retailers are still waiting for licenses to sell and generate sales.
There are some dispensaries that have gained a sales license before the holt but still have some concerns with the AGLC.
Spiritleaf Inc. was one of those primed dispensaries ready to sell cannabis but was let down by the AGLC. According to Nathan Noble, national training coordinator for Spiritleaf, they’re stuck selling paraphernalia and merchandise.
“It's an unfortunate situation, as a retailer we have our own corporate stores as well as franchised partner stores that are waiting to open,” said Noble.
“[We] cannot due so until licensing opens back up, that’s due to a shortage of product, so yes we would like to see more product,”
This shortage is creating a issue for distributors who would like to grow their customer base through the sale of cannabis. Which, in turn, could result in the closing down of retailers that can not sustain themselves off merchandise sales alone.
Heather Holman, the manager of communication for AGLC, said in an email statement that there is an inconsistency of new products from their licensed producers.
“It's inconsistent and would need to stabilize in order to lift the licensing hold. We are unable to predict when the supply issues and subsequent licensing hold will lift but AGLC continues to monitor the situation.”
Newman is seeing the AGLC struggling to keeping up with the industry and demands for new product, although, he doesn’t think the AGLC is solely responsible.
“I think a lot of people blame the AGLC but it’s not necessarily their fault, it’s more to due with Health Canada. They need to approve more licensed producers,” said Newman.
“They need to change the packaging, they need to not have only one company in Canada make the stamps. The whole process that they have is just not working.”
Even though the future of cannabis is uncertain, these government organizations are working to innovate their policies to help small businesses.
Noble has high hopes that licensing opportunities will open up in the future as more product makes its way into the Alberta market.
- By Isaiah Lindo