Everything you need to know about applying for a retail cannabis licence in Alberta

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      With all the drama between B.C. and Alberta lately, it pains us to say this: As far as cannabis regulations go, our neighbour to the east is leaving us, and the rest of Canada, in the dust when it comes to creating the rules and restrictions around retail. 

      If you're thinking about applying for a licence to sell cannabis at the retail level there, you're in luck: The Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission began accepting applications earlier this week, and we've pared down the details.

      According to the AGLC's application guidelines, all retail cannabis licence applicants must undergo a series of background checks, which will also be performed on directors, shareholders, and other key employees "to prevent criminal interests from operating, associating, or having financial interest in cannabis retail sales in Alberta."

      The AGLC will prohibit individuals with specific criminal backgrounds from participating in the legal recreational market. If you've ever been "a participant in the unlawful cannabis trade, including illegal retail or medical sales", or have had a criminal conviction for a serious violent or drug-related offence, count yourself out of the race to be a cannabis retailer in Alberta. 

      Anyone ever charged with or convicted of an offence under the Criminal Code, Excise Act, Food and Drugs Act, Income Tax Act, Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, or convicted of similar crimes in a foreign country will also be denied a licence. Additionally, those who have spent more than three years in prison in the five years prior to the date of their application will also be turned down. 

      Applicants will be required to pay a set of fees, including a $400 non-refundable application fee for each store location, an initial deposit of $3,000 for background checks, and a $700 annual licence fee. Applicants must also seek municipal approval for requirements related to zoning and land-use, and meet business and retail store requirements set forth by the AGLC. 

      All retail stores in Alberta must include a point-of-sale area, a shipping and receiving area that is separate from other businesses, a secure storage area, an alarm system, a surveillance system, and a secure product display.

      Like Alberta's liquor stores, cannabis stores may not open earlier than 10 a.m., or later than 2 a.m. Unlike them, however, minors will be prohibited from entering, even if they are joined by an adult.

      In Alberta, retail cannabis licenses won't be issued to stores located within 100 metres of provincial healthcare facilities or schools. Municipalities may create bylaws to change the distance, but applications will still be subject to the approval of the AGLC.

      Another store restriction involves visibility: The AGLC has prohibited visibility into the store from the outside, meaning retailers will have to get creative with window coverings. All cannabis and cannabis accessories visible to customers must be stored in a locked showcase at all times.

      Store names will also be subject to approval, and the words chronic, stoned, high, pharmacy, dispensary, apothecary, medcinal, health, or therapeutic are all on the AGLC's list of no-no's.

      The AGLC is asking applicants to allow two to four months for their applications to be processed. All applications will be posted on the commission's website