Alberta to allow pot shops to sell cannabis at adult-only trade shows, festivals

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Albertans will soon see pot shops selling cannabis at some festivals and trade shows.

The province will begin allowing licensed cannabis retailers to operate temporary sales locations at adult-only events come Jan. 31.

The industry welcomed the change, positioning it Tuesday as a way to grow their brands, satisfy customers and erode the market share held by unlicensed dispensaries and dealers.

“We applaud the Government of Alberta’s decision to remove unnecessary red tape from the cannabis industry, and we encourage other provinces like Ontario to follow suit," said Sam Vanderveer of OEG Retail Cannabis, the Edmonton-based company which owns the Tokyo Smoke retail chain, in a statement.

"This is an exciting advancement for licensed Canadian cannabis retailers — but more importantly for consumers in Alberta."

Michelle Lefler, a spokeswoman for Edmonton-based Aurora Cannabis Inc., added the amendments would provide increased flexibility for the industry along with more access to legal cannabis.

Statistics Canada reported in October that by the first half of 2023, more than 70 per cent of the total value of cannabis consumed in Canada was from a legal source, an increase from 22 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2018, when legalization occurred.

However, many cannabis companies still lament the strength of the illicit sector and have spent the five years since legalization dropping their prices to compete with one another and the illicit market.

Being able to sell cannabis at adult-only events could further nibble away at the illicit market, said Beena Goldenberg, chief executive of Moncton, N.B.-based cannabis producer Organigram Holdings Inc.

"We believe these improvements will foster a more competitive legal cannabis market, ultimately discouraging the illicit market," she wrote in an emailed statement.

Alberta's changes come as the province has been reviewing its pot regulations.

In the last year, it began allowing pot shops to open at 9 a.m., reduced some listing and shipping fees and now lets pot company representatives give cannabis samples to stores to promote products and increase product knowledge.

“We’ve been looking at the cannabis market to determine what’s working, what needs to be improved and what’s redundant or unnecessary, while protecting public health and safety," Dale Nally, minister of Service Alberta and red tape reduction, said in a news release.

"These changes are the result of our latest work to help curb the illegal cannabis industry and continue providing choices Albertans can trust.”

In addition to loosening restrictions around cannabis sales at events, Alberta will allow pot retailers to keep their products in locked display cases when their stores are closed, preventing stores from having to move all their products into a secured storage room at the close of every business day.

The province will also remove some restrictions on sales and transfers between cannabis retailers, allowing Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis to establish resale markup limits.

David Klein, chief executive of cannabis producer Canopy Growth Corp., called the moves "thoughtful enhancements" which could inspire others.

"Alberta deserves additional praise for setting an exciting example for jurisdictions across the country," he wrote in an emailed statement.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 19, 2023.