BC cannabis retail licencing: What you need to know

Cannabis on a retailers table

BC bud. Everyone knows it, and tourists come from around the world to British Columbia for it. Our province grows some of the best cannabis in the world, and since October 2018 licensed retailers can sell it. As the province issues more licenses and new cannabis retailers pop up, the road to retail for prospective store owners will be smoother and faster.

Currently: Cannabis sales in British Columbia will be split between private and public stores. The BC LDB (Liquor Distribution Branch) will be operating all public stores and all cannabis e-commerce in the province. Like tobacco, the minimum age to purchase and consume cannabis is 19.

Cannabis retail licensing in BC and how to get started

In BC, there is no set maximum of licenses available through the BC LDB. That being said, they are taking a “low and slow” approach by only releasing a few licenses per month.

Licensing and auditing of private stores will be overseen by the LCRB (Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch) as a separate organization from the BC LDB. The LCRB is currently accepting recreational cannabis retail applications. You can apply here!

However, municipal governments need to also sign off before a store can go live. Essentially, a new cannabis retailer needs approval from the provincial government via the BC LDB and also the municipal government before going live. Municipalities such as Richmond and West Vancouver have unanimously decided to ban all cannabis retail in their areas. Check with your municipality to see if you can open a cannabis store in your city.

Additionally, new stores need to have support from municipalities on their application for the licensing to be approved by the BC LDB. Municipalities and local governments will also have the power of zoning and deciding where cannabis retailers can open up shop.

The waiting period for licensees to hear back from the BC LDB is currently uncertain. It’s clear that the province is not interested in speeding up the licensing process for the next year, so it’s best to begin the process early to ensure you get a chance in the near future.

Licensing fees include:

  • Application fee:
    • security checks
    • financial screenings
  • Annual licensing renewal

Please note that tobacco and liquor licenses are separate from cannabis retail licenses. If you wish to sell cannabis, you cannot use the liquor or tobacco licenses. Furthermore, stores licensed to sell cannabis cannot sell liquor or tobacco and vice versa.

If you have previously owned or operated an unlicensed dispensary you will not be barred from acquiring a cannabis retail license.

Licensing is not yet open for cannabis consumption spaces like lounges. There currently is no plan for these types of businesses.

So far, here is what cannabis retail compliance and reporting looks like in BC:

Operating a licensed store in BC means that you have to report your inventory movements and sale numbers on a monthly basis. The report should be in spreadsheet format with the following details:

The columns are set as the types of Health Canada categories for cannabis products including:

  • Seeds (quantity and book value)
  • Plants (quantity and book value)
  • Dried cannabis (quantity in kg and book value)
  • Fresh Cannabis (quantity in kg and book value)
  • Cannabis oils (quantity in liters and book value)

The rows are set as the types of movements including:

  • Opening inventory
  • Additions to inventory
    • Purchased/Transferred In
    • Returns
    • Other movements
  • Total additions
  • Reductions to inventory
    • Sold/Transferred Out
    • Destroyed
    • Lost/Theft
    • Returns
    • Other reductions
  • Total reductions
  • Closing inventory

Other information to be included in the monthly report :

  • LCRB License Number
  • Reporting Year (YYYY)
  • Reporting Month (MM)
  • City/Town
  • Number of management employees
  • Number of administrative employees
  • Number of sales employees
  • Number of other employees

If a store is found to be out of compliance, penalties can range from fines up to $25,000 or suspensions / revoking of licenses depending on how severe the compliance issues are.

Now that you have a license, how do you operate a compliant cannabis store?

Some ground rules to cannabis store operations include:

  • Cannabis products and advertising must not be visible from outside the store.
  • No use of words like pharmacy, dispensary, apothecary or wellness in the name of your store. Your store’s name cannot mention anything that may indicate medical usage.
  • All sales must be done inside the establishment. No outdoor retail is allowed.
  • No private online stores for cannabis is permitted. The BC LDB is the only entity that can sell online.
  • Your cannabis store cannot also sell food, liquor, or tobacco at the same location.
  • All cannabis must be stored on-site and cannot leave the building unless sold or returned to the BC LDB.
  • The BC LDB is the only authorized provider of cannabis for private retailers. Your store must not procure inventory from any other source.
  • Customers may only purchase up to 30 dried flower grams of cannabis (or equivalent) per transaction.
  • Minimum age of cannabis customers is 19. Minors are not allowed to enter any cannabis store.
  • No edibles or concentrates may be sold in stores yet pending regulation near the end of 2019.
  • PST and GST must be collected.
  • Cannabis stores can also sell smoking accessories and gift cards.
  • Cannabis stores can only operate between 9 am and 11 pm PST.
  • Delivery services for cannabis is prohibited.

You can also take a look at our features, including our one-click compliance reporting tool. Book a demo session or free one-hour consultation with our cannabis retail experts today! We are always ready to answer any questions you may have.