A guide to Canadian cannabis barcodes, and how your store can best prepare for them

Managing cannabis products can seem straightforward at first, but things change when you receive your first shipment of legal cannabis in their respective packaging. The packages will look something like the above.

The barcode on the left is what’s called a GS1 stacked databar, or a lot-tracked barcode. The lot-tracked barcode is a superset of a regular UPC barcode combined with other information, namely the lot number and the expiry number. The following image explains how the individual components can be broken down.

For convenience, we’ve attached a handy PDF resource from GS1, a non-profit organization that standardizes barcoding formats across different industries: https://www.gs1.org/standards/barcodes/databar

At Greenline, we propose the following steps to best prepare your store for stocking cannabis products.

1. Ensure that your POS system can integrate with 2D barcode scanners

Lot-tracked barcodes are often too long to fit in a single horizontal label, so they are often stacked 2, 3, or even 4 times on top of each other. As a result, regular 1D barcode scanners that are used for most industry-agnostic POS systems do not cut it. 2D barcodes scanners are able to read these barcode formats, but are often $100 to $200 more expensive than their 1D counterparts.

2. Ensure that your POS system can convert lot-tracked cannabis barcodes into their individual components

Some products only come with lot-tracked barcodes on the packaging, meaning that if your store has an initiative to scan as many products as possible, you cannot rely simply on the UPCs being available for you to scan.

It’s important for your cannabis POS system to be able to scan a full 2D lot-tracked barcode and break out the UPC to compare to your product catalog. Because lot numbers are often different for every shipment you receive from your provincial distributor or LP, it’s important to identify products by UPC and not by lot.

3. In the province of Alberta, it is important to track all incoming and outgoing lot numbers

Alberta cannabis retail regulations state that stores have to thoroughly track all lot numbers in their POS system of choice. In fact, some AGLC inspectors have been denying retail applications for not having a system to track them properly.

Lot tracking can add significant complexity to your store’s inventory management, so we at Greenline have optimized our system to make this process as easy as possible for stores just starting out. Don’t get caught off guard when your inspector asks whether you can track lot numbers down to individual sales receipts!

If you’d like to learn more, come chat with our team at https://getgreenline.co/schedule-a-demo

Learn more about cannabis Lot Tracking with Greenline POS here.

Lot tracking for Canadian cannabis retailers

What is lot tracking?

Cannabis producers are required to track which lot (also known as batch) a cannabis product came from. Regulators can use that information to trace information such as:

  • When was this plant grown?
  • Where was it grown from?
  • How old is the plant?

The final packaged product contains a lot identifier so that regulators can trace it all the way back to the original plant when needed. This is very useful in the case of product recalls. Lot numbers are required to be included in the GS1 barcode and in a human-readable format on the final package.

A shipment of a single product SKU may contain multiple lots of varying age and THC/CBD levels.

Barcodes on the back of cannabis products to be sold on Greenline POS systems.

Learn about Canadian cannabis lot-tracked barcodes here: https://getgreenline.co/guide-canadian-cannabis-barcodes/

Do I need to lot track at my store?

In most provinces, lot tracking is optional with the exception of Alberta, where the AGLC recommends that stores lot track everything from product intake to sale. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches.

  • Pros of lot tracking: You will gain visibility into which lot you have available for each product at any given time. This information can help you with your customer-facing menus, which rely on lot-specific information such as THC/CBD levels. When there is a product recall, identifying and accounting for the products to be sent out will be a simple procedure.
  • Cons of lot tracking: Every inventory procedure (purchase orders, audits, sales) requires an additional layer of counting. It will no longer be enough to ask “how many of product X do I have?”. Rather, the question will be “how many of each lot of product X do I have?”.

How can I lot track?

Should your store decide to lot track, here are the workflows you need to consider.

  1. Purchase orders
    • This is the first stage of accounting for your new cannabis inventory
    • Ensure that your POS can support the quantity ordered, quantity received, and a breakdown of the individual lot numbers and quantities per item.
    • Ensure that your POS can designate which products to lot track and which to not lot track. Simple products such as accessories do not need to be tracked at this level.
  2. Audits
    • Audits refer to counting and updating your current inventory levels.
    • Similar to purchase orders, ensure that your POS can support the expected quantity, the actual/counted quantity, and break down individual lot numbers and quantities per item.
  3. Sales
    • Ensure that your POS can scan a 2D lot-tracked cannabis barcode and recognize the UPC and the lot number.
    • In the case that a lot-tracked barcode is poorly printed/formatted, ensure that your POS allows for manual lot number selections.

Lot tracking is not a common feature within off-the-shelf POS systems. While it’s required for grocery/food-based software systems, these will often include additional bloat and features that may not be relevant to your business. Selecting the right cannabis POS can really help streamline your workflows.

Greenline POS was designed from the ground up to support cannabis lot tracking. If you are interested in learning more, you can schedule a Greenline demo.

Why you should choose a Canadian company for Canadian compliance in Ontario

Starting a cannabis dispensary in Ontario?  Here are 6 reasons why you should choose Greenline POS, a company built by Canadians for Canadians.

1) Greenline POS is specifically designed for use in Canadian provinces

Cannabis compliance systems have different rules in Canada and America. You should never be bogged down by bloated features designed for the American market. Canadian and American cannabis retail compliance is very different, resulting in redundant and unnecessary functions for Canadian users if they choose a system built for the USA.

The greatest strength of Greenline POS is our razor sharp focus on Canadian compliance. Our system is tailored for Canadian provinces and we do not do any business outside the country.

2) With Greenline POS, PCI certification is provided by the most trusted processors

PCI is short for PCI DSS, and stands for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. PCI certification is required for credit and debit processing companies to verify that transactions happen securely and that all client payment info is safe. With powerhouse providers like Moneris and Merrco working with Greenline, you can be confident that your customer’s payment info is fully encrypted and 100% secured.

3) Total inventory management and tracking, live and accurate to the minute

One of the most attractive features of Greenline is our master inventory view and total inventory logs. With this setup, you can record and track every movement of cash and inventory throughout your business no matter how many inventory locations you have company-wide.

Inventory logs on Greenline will track:

    • Which product was moved
    • Timestamp of each movement to the minute
    • Type of movement (sale, purchase order, returns, waste destruction, etc.)
    • Quantity moved (including starting and ending amounts)
    • Employee responsible
    • Location(s) of movement
  • All additional notes (eg. mould, broken packaging, loss, theft, etc.)

4) One-click Ontario compliance reports

Greenline provides one-click compliance report generation for the AGLC in Alberta, SLGA in Saskatchewan, LGCA in Manitoba, and LDB in British Columbia plus NLCB in Nunavut and NTLCC in NWT. We now provide the same level of service for Ontario (AGCO) to make monthly cannabis retail compliance reporting quick and easy. Why spend 3 to 4 business days manually creating a spreadsheet report when your POS system should generate it in under a second?

5) Automated Federal and Provincial compliance locks

To make daily store operations smoother, Greenline removes any possibility of jeopardizing your cannabis retail licence with automated compliance checks. For example, when you add more than 30 grams of cannabis items into a cart, the sale button will be blocked to prevent breaking federal possession and sale limits. Other automated compliance functions include warnings when employees attempt to add customers under the legal age to purchase cannabis.

6) Secure, lifetime record keeping accessible anytime you want

Although Ontario has specified that you must keep retail records of sales and employees for at least three years, Greenline offers no time limit on how long records are kept. With daily backups to secure servers located in Canada, Greenline can pull up any data from anytime whenever you request it. Data security is of utmost importance to us, and that’s why Greenline uses Canadian servers exclusively to ensure none of your data crosses the border into the USA. Greenline does not monetize customer data. 

Looking for more info on Greenline POS? Check out our article: A breakdown of Ontario compliance reporting here.

You can also take a look at our features, 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.

BC cannabis retail licencing: What you need to know

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.

How your cannabis POS system can save you time

In a fast-paced, ever-changing retail environment, it’s important your POS system understands your store’s workflows to save you time. In this article, we’ll go over 5 ways Greenline POS can save your staff hours every week in operational costs.

Automatic provincial product imports

Within a product’s lifecycle in a store, the process of product management is one of the most time consuming for management teams. Every time there is a new product available from your provincial wholesaler, someone from management needs to spend time pulling all the product details together, determining how they should be arranged for reporting purposes, and filling in SKUs, names, descriptions, images, compliance weights, etc.
This can be time draining especially in provinces like Alberta, where recently there is a massive expansion in the number of new products made available to retailers.

With Greenline POS however, the amount of time taken to add a product can be reduced from 5-10 minutes down to a matter of seconds using our provincial product import feature. On a weekly basis, we update our internal catalog of products from BC, AB, and ON to make them available for our users. When you want to import Agent Orange pre-rolls, you simply need to select “Import from AGCO” (or your respective wholesaler), enter the name of your product, then press enter. 

With Greenline, the following information will be automatically filled in for you:

  • Provincial SKU
  • Name
  • Image (if available)
  • Vendor (will create a vendor if not available)
  • Description
  • Variants
  • Barcodes
  • Cannabis compliance weights

Using Greenline POS, your team can spend almost 80% less time entering cannabis product details into your system, allowing you to focus more on inventory management and store operations.

One-click compliance reports

All provinces across Canada are required to generate monthly compliance reports on the first week of every month. For provinces like Ontario, the process is particularly painful due to the need to capture inventory snapshots for every compliant product for each day in addition to detailed sales data in very specific formats.

Without a system to automate the process, generating the report manually can take anywhere from 3 to 12 hours a month, depending on your province and the number of staff you have.

Thankfully, this is a problem that Greenline POS has been helping stores with since legalization on October 17th. We’ll automate the entire compliance report generation and correction process for you. Here’s how it works:

  1. Go to Greenline’s compliance report generation feature page.
  2. You will see a list of all inventory logs that may require attention. Here, you can set your inventory discrepancy reasons to ones approved by Health Canada.
  3. Preview your compliance report details, which includes a per-product and per-category breakdown
  4. Click “generate report”, and send to your provincial regulator.

Greenline was built by Canadians for Canadians, ensuring top-notch support as it relates to your store’s reports and guaranteed updates as regulations from Health Canada continue to evolve.

Fast inventory audits

In our experience, the best stores count their cannabis inventory every single day. It can be an incredibly time-consuming process to get your staff to go around your front and back of store with a paper clipboard and counting every unit of product.

As a manager, it’s important that you have the following pieces of information:

  • When is the last time someone at my store counted our inventory?
  • Who did the audit?
  • How many discrepancies were there?
  • What is the dollar value of those discrepancies?
  • Do we need to investigate further?

Using Greenline’s inventory audit feature, managers can see everything that’s going on with their inventory counts, including the employee responsible, the time it was moved, and more! With Greenline POS, store operators have the ability to see every action taken in their store, even when they’re not physically there.

Learn more about Greenline POS

If you’re interested in saving your store time with a Canadian cannabis retail POS built specifically for your needs, get in touch! Your team can chat with our experienced team at https://getgreenline.co/schedule-a-demo

Click-and-collect, curbside pickup, and online payments with Greenline POS

Cannabis retailers have had a difficult time in the past year and this has only gotten more difficult with the COVID-19 pandemic. At Greenline, we pride ourselves on speed and flexibility for our customers, and it’s important to ensure your POS solution can carry you through these hard times.

This is why, during this time, Greenline has moved forward quickly to provide our customers with online sales support and click-and-collect services. Our customers have told us that Greenline’s online ordering solution is faster and better implemented than any of our competitors, giving them an upper hand in the retail space.

Greenline has a large offering of unique integration partners that can service remote sales for our customers, including:

One example of this in action is how Greenline POS supports Friendly Stranger in Toronto by helping them implement click-and-collect faster than their competition, giving them a unique advantage in being one of the first to hit the ground running with this service in Ontario.

You can visit Friendly Stranger’s website here.

“Greenline’s nimbleness has allowed us to move faster than everyone else, and I definitely want to commend them for that. Greenline’s leadership has met all of our needs in a speedy and efficient way” 


-Sam Vanderveer VP of Retail Experience at Friendly Stranger

Helping retailers succeed and gain the upper hand on the competition is what Greenline has been proven to do best, and we proudly carry that tradition into the future.

Contact us today to learn more about how your cannabis store can get to the next level with Greenline POS, and how our many integration partners can truly make your customer experience amazing.

Greenline’s stance on data privacy

Your data is important. Data is a valuable resource, and the creators of that data always deserve to know where it goes and how it’s used.

Greenline does not monetize customer data. As a business, our revenues are generated as a function of delivering value to our retail customers, and not as a function of expanding our revenue channels to as many customer groups as possible.

As the industry experiences an explosion in software availability and choice, we encourage all cannabis retailers to ask their software vendors the following questions:

  • Do you make money by selling my customer and sales data in an identifiable way?
  • Do you make money by selling my customer and sales data in an aggregated/anonymous way?
  • Do you provide access to my customer and sales data to my competitors?
Data privacy - Greenline POS
Greenline POS does not monetize customer sales data

For some software companies, this is part of their business model – at Greenline, we provide opt-in integrations for customers who see value in them. These companies should be able to answer questions in a straightforward and transparent way.

If your software vendor has difficulty providing clear answers, it may be time to re-evaluate whether they have your best interests at heart.

Schedule a demo to learn more about how Greenline can help you manage sales and inventory effectively while keeping your data secure. 

A breakdown of Ontario compliance reports

The Ontario provincial government requires one of the most stringent and complex retail compliance reports in all of Canada.

While most provinces require 1 document, Ontario requires 3 that all match up with each other. It’s important for cannabis retailers in Ontario to be aware of what the requirements are and the hiccups they may encounter on the way. Being prepared could be the difference between spending 1 hour or 10+ hours every month.

Report 1: Federal compliance report

The AGCO federal compliance report is similar to what the AGLC in Alberta requires for their jurisdiction – a line-by-line breakdown of individual cannabis SKUs provided by the wholesaler. Inventory change reasons are divided into “Quantity additions” and “Quantity reductions”, all of which your POS should track.

Things to keep in mind:

  • The AGCO provides a template to copy/paste your report values into.
  • It’s very important for your opening and closing inventories to line up month-to-month. Otherwise, the AGCO may prevent the file upload.
  • The inventory $ values are based on wholesale costs, not retail prices.
AGCO Report Template
AGCO Report Template

Report 2: OCS sales report
The OCS sales report is a unique report by the province to assess sales of every cannabis product on a day-by-day basis. This is one of the most difficult reports to work with logistically, as the number of rows explodes with your product count – for example, with just 150 active SKUs, you’re looking at a row count of 30 * 150 = 4500. It’s important that your POS can generate these reports for you to save the time in compiling this data yourself.

Things to keep in mind:

  • You must give consent for the AGCO to share this data with the OCS in a dedicated spreadsheet row.
  • You must record the retail price, wholesale cost, and markdowns (discounts) on a per-day basis.
AGCO Reporting Consent for OCS

Report 3: Periodic discrepancy report
When you inevitably encounter inventory discrepancies, the AGCO asks that you report them on a weekly basis. In your POS, look for a feature that can help you audit (count) inventory. The difference between your “counted” and “expected” values will be the discrepancy.

Things to keep in mind

  • We recommend stores count their full store inventory at a minimum of once a week.
  • Stores with more employees should strive to do full or partial counts every business day. Try to keep detailed notes for each discrepancy.
AGCO Periodic Discrepancy Report

Conclusion
We’ve heard first-hand from stores on generic POS systems the difficulties of getting these reports right every month. Even when a cannabis POS provides what we call “one-click compliance reports”, they often don’t support managers for the messy mistakes that are bound to happen. Greenline POS was built to handle the realities of in-store operations, which includes:

  • Typos in SKU data entry
  • Duplicate products
  • Not knowing why inventory is missing and more

To learn more about how Greenline POS can help your Ontario cannabis retail store, as well as for other provinces, please schedule a demo with our team.

Provincial purchase order imports made easy with Greenline

Receiving inventory is one of the most time-consuming aspects of operating your cannabis retail store. We talk to independent store managers who receive multiple shipments of products during the week and struggle to keep their teams aligned and their data organized. We also talk to scaling retailers who want to keep ordering and receiving from HQ across multiple stores.

At Greenline, our goal is to help retailers scale – in this blog post, we’ll talk about how our provincial purchase order imports help managers save hours of data every week allowing them to scale their inventory operations.

Provincial purchase order imports

All provinces with government-run cannabis wholesalers provide their retailers with some form of order. On generic POS systems, store managers are expected to enter the details (typically SKU, cost per unit, quantity purchased, quantity received, and any notes) by hand. This is okay for smaller orders, but in a cannabis retail environment, where a single order can have up to 150 unique SKUs, we can see why this doesn’t scale.

Greenline Purchase Order Importer

For stores using Greenline in British Columbia, Alberta, or Ontario:

  1. Create a new purchase order
  2. Select your inventory location
  3. Click the “Import” button on the top navigation bar
  4. Select the “Province” import option
  5. Click “Upload file”
  6. Drag-and-drop your respective provincial file
  7. Greenline will automatically import all matching SKUs, quantities, and costs

It’s important for the products to already exist in your product catalog because things may slip in the product creation process, especially when dealing with so many SKUs. Greenline lets you know if a matching SKU could not be found. Data entry mistakes are just part of the reality of running a store, so we want to protect you from these as much as possible.

British Columbia

BC Provincial Compliance

The BCLDB provides an ASN (advanced shipping notice) in a .xml file and an order confirmation in a .xlsx (Excel) file. Simply drag and drop either of these files into the Greenline importer.

Alberta

Alberta Provincial Compliance

The AGLC doesn’t yet have a simple tabular file to import, but it’s important for us to support the largest cannabis province in the country. Greenline supports a .eml (email) file which can be exported from most email clients and then dragged and dropped into the Greenline importer.

Ontario

Ontario Provincial Compliance

The OCS, similar to BC, sends retailers an ASN in a .xlsx file that can be dragged and dropped into the Greenline importer. Because the OCS sends multiple similar-looking files, make sure that you see the following columns on the far left-hand side in your ASN:

  • ShipmentID
  • ContainerID
  • ItemName
  • UnitPrice

In summary, we highly suggest retailers look for cannabis retail point-of-sale systems, like Greenline POS, that can scale by automating time-consuming data entry tasks and reducing human error.

You can learn more about Greenline POS by scheduling a demo here.

Reflecting on 2019 – thank you

As 2019 comes to an end, I wanted to show my sincere appreciation to all of our customers.

When we started back in 2018, we were a small technology business servicing 20 stores. Our focus was making sure that we serviced stores the best we could during those tumultuous times. Business owners experience a lot of anxiety – loans, rent, staffing, unexpected surprises, competition, self-doubt, business partners – and the uncertainty of the cannabis industry certainly did not help. As someone who experiences anxiety as well, I truly saw it as my job to put in my all to make sure retailers did not experience more than they needed to.

We’ve grown to service 100+ stores by the end of 2019, but the way we think has not changed.

Our job being far from over, with so many exciting features and new offerings scheduled for 2020. Our promise to our customers has always been that we will grow with you through thick and thin, through any challenge the industry may throw at us.

Thank you for letting us be part of that ride.

Sincerely,
Albert Kim
CEO