Dispensary Laws and Regulations for Canadian Retailers

Updated on November 13, 2020

Canada made history by becoming the largest country in the world to fully legalize adult-use cannabis on October 17, 2018, and the opportunities for retail-focused entrepreneurs are vast. Monthly sales passed $100 million in July of 2019, and continue to grow. Forecasts estimate cannabis sales to hit $3.16 billion in 2020.

At VS1 GreenTrack, we understand the unique needs of cannabis retailers. Our dispensary POS and inventory management, touchscreen menu and Express Checkout solutions are used in hundreds of dispensaries across North America. We couldn’t be more excited to help Canadian businesses put their best foot forward in the emerging cannabis retail market.

Below, we’ve provided answers to some of the most pressing questions for cannabis retailers in Washington. But as the industry matures and loopholes or problems in the law are identified, these rules could change. As such, we will keep this page updated as changes arise.

Compliance Reporting

Compliance with record-keeping and reporting requirements is of paramount concern to all cannabis operators. Health Canada has stipulated that all licensed cannabis activity—including sales, deliveries, and losses—must be recorded in the national Cannabis Tracking System (CTS).

As a retailer, you are required to submit monthly reports to your provincial government, which are then submitted to Health Canada to be updated in the CTS. These reports must be submitted through an online portal, or e-mailed, depending on your province.

At VS1 GreenTrack, we’ve developed a point-of-sale specifically for Canadian cannabis retailers. VS1 GreenTrack POS is able to generate 1-click compliance reports that contain all the data required, in the format established for each province. This automated process saves you countless hours in reconciling inventory and sales, and helps you avoid human errors that could cost you your license.

Throughout Canada, more than half of all private stores operating rely on VS1 GreenTrack’s POS to keep them compliant.

Cannabis Marketing Restrictions

According to Health Canada’s regulations, “Unless authorized under the Cannabis Act, it is prohibited to promote cannabis or a cannabis accessory or any service related to cannabis.” These prohibitions include advertising cannabis through testimonials, endorsements, or portraying cannabis as if it’s linked to “a way of life such as one that includes glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring.”

Guidelines for cannabis marketing are still lacking and Health Canada evaluates each violation on a case-by-case basis. Many provinces rely on the federal advertising regulations, but some provinces like Alberta and British Columbia have slight variations.

Generally speaking, cannabis retailers cannot use the following marketing techniques:

  • Paid Google, Facebook, or Instagram Ads
  • Use celebrity endorsement
  • Outdoor Signage (although some provinces, like Alberta, allows signage but limits the content to name and address)
  • Using coupons
  • Free samples
  • Show cannabis product on your website
  • Sell merchandise
  • Communicating information about price

The following marketing techniques are allowed:

  • Creating a strong online presence
  • Building your brand
  • Engage customers through social media
  • Content marketing to drive organic search
  • Certain types of cannabis events, generally limited to intra-industry events
  • Email marketing
  • Informational Promotion (must be communicated to individuals 18 years + and is identified by name)

Cannabis retailers are expected to place advertisements in places where minors are not allowed. And if an advertisement is done via telecom, a retailer must prove they have taken reasonable steps to ensure the audience is 18+.