Starting a retail cannabis store in Canada isn’t easy. This relatively new hospitality licensing category requires a high level of patience and tolerance for bureaucracy.
To start a retail cannabis business in BC, you’ll be competing with a flood of companies wanting in on this exciting business opportunity. According to BC government non-medical cannabis license application statistics, as of February 19, 2019, 443 retail cannabis store license applications have been submitted, 114 have been paid but are incomplete, 3 have been approved but must meet conditions before the license is granted, and only 12 cannabis licenses have been issued. With these odds in mind, and the glacial pace of the government cannabis licensing process, you can see how valuable a retail cannabis license is. If your cannabis license application is approved, you have a golden ticket that must be safeguarded!
Once you have been approved for a non-medical cannabis retail license in BC or Alberta, you can safeguard your license by understanding cannabis licensing rules and regulations, formalizing your cannabis store staff training, and creating formal in-house policies and procedures.
Starting a retail cannabis store in Canada is made more complex (and frustrating) because cannabis licensing is overseen by each province and territory, and each province’s cannabis licensing framework is different. This makes it very difficult for start-ups because if you’re trying to decide in which province to start a cannabis business, you’ll need to read (and understand) each province’s licensing rules and regulations. What is applicable in one province, may not be applicable or relevant in another province. While a start-up can try to go it alone, having an experienced retail cannabis consultant on your side increases the chances of application approval.
To date, only Alberta, BC, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, and Saskatchewan permit bricks-and-mortar private non-medical retail cannabis stores (in addition to government-run stores). Other provinces are either the sole cannabis retailer, are still developing provincial cannabis licensing policies, or are a hard “No” for public or private cannabis stores – as is the case with Manitoba.
If you’re considering starting a store in Canada, we recommend reading “Cannabis laws of Canada by province and territory” for detailed information about non-medical cannabis licensing by province and territory.
One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to keep your non-medical retail cannabis license safe is through cannabis store staff training. If employees understand compliance issues, rules and regulations, compliance breaches are greatly minimized. Ask any business owner who runs a type of business that is subject to inspection and other regulatory checks (e.g. private retail liquor stores, restaurants) and they’ll tell you that it’s their employees that keep the business compliant.
So, riffing on that age-old adage about fishing: “Tell an employee the rules and you’ll be open for today. Teach your staff the rules and you’ll be open for a lifetime”.
By “teach”, we mean a formalized, mandatory, in-house training program, in addition to any mandatory training the government requires.
Retail cannabis store policies and procedures are the core of any good in-house training program. A hard-copy of your policies and procedures manual should be made available to trainees and a copy should always be kept in the store. Training manuals must be updated on a timely basis to reflect changes to rules and regulations and supplemental training should be mandatory for staff when changes occur.