MARCY NICHOLSON FEBRUARY 10, 2019
A chain of Alberta cannabis stores aims to roll out an age verification system that will enable adults to view discounts and product availability online. It is the latest effort by cannabis companies to find legal avenues to promote products amid strict regulations designed to prevent minors from accessing pot shops on the internet.
High Tide Inc., which operates four licensed Canna Cabana stores in Alberta, is working with a software provider to set up customer accounts for people at least 18 years of age after they have verified their birth date at a venue.
Some Alberta retailers recently started offering in-store discounts on cannabis and accessories, with at least one promoting this online, which sparked confusion about government rules around promotions and advertising.
“Customers could set up an account by verifying their age in one of our stores, or they will be able to provide the same information online in a secure way, using the same verification services that meet AGLC and Health Canada requirements, similar to purchasing through government retailers,” said Jason Kostiw, spokesman for High Tide.
“Once verified, they would have access to specific store inventories, pricing information and any promotions that we are permitted to share in an actual age-gated space.”
Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) is responsible for establishing rules on how legal recreational pot is sold in the province, which has a privatized retail system. But some of the regulations are vague, and some retailers have interpreted the rules differently. To enter a cannabis retail website, the viewer must first state a birth date of 18 years or older, but verification is not required.
The regulations are aimed at keeping cannabis out of the hands of children and strict marketing rules prohibit any kind of advertising that could lure minors.
Alcanna Inc.’s Nova Cannabis advertised the stores’ first marijuana sale on the company website in January, and this week advertised 20 per cent off select accessories for a “Valentine’s Day Sale!” It also lists available products.
Fire and Flower, which has seven licensed stores in Alberta, is not advertising a sale but its homepage states: “Love is in the air. Take our Valentine’s Day quiz and find your cannabis match.” The company lists its available products complete with pictures and prices for its click-and-collect program, which allows customers to order online and pick up their product in-store.
Last week, an AGLC spokesperson said it is within regulations to advertise a promotion on a store website “as long as the site has age-verification so that people 18 years and older can enter.”
Amid murky regulations, High Tide interprets this to mean online promotions are only permitted behind age-verification systems where identification has been provided.
“We are hoping to begin beta testing in less than a month,” Mr. Kostiw said.
“No personal information will be stored by High Tide or Canna Cabana. Our chosen providers are experts in their field and have extensive experience in data security, age-verification and API software integration.”
Customers will first need to provide identification in Canna Cabana stores where they can set up a profile and password in order to access their age-gate account online, he said.
When Canna Cabana’s age-gate is in place, account holders will be able to view promotions as well as see what products are available before trekking to the store, something of particular interest during the current supply shortage.