Valhalla Cannabis in Sylvan Lake, Alta. File Photo

Alberta Cannabis Council says the black market has become bolder in sales

The ACC wants to see steps taken to take down the black market and help small businesses

Between the black market and Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC), retailers in Alberta are having a difficult time staying afloat.

A committee made up of retailers, developers and experts in the field, Alberta Cannabis Council is trying to work with the Province and AGLC to move the industry forward.

However, there are road blocks in place for the retailer making the industry stall, says John Carle, executive director for Alberta Cannabis Council (ACC).

“We’ve actually seen the black market become embolden since cannabis was legalized,” Carle said.

The ACC says roughly 70 per cent of pot sales in Alberta are through illegal means, such as third party websites who claim delivery.

Delivery of cannabis is only available through albertacannabis.org, AGLC’s digital shop. The AGLC shop is also the only place in Alberta where a customer can shop online.

Retailers in Alberta are not allowed to deliver, sell product online, list prices or show pictures of their product online.

Carle says the ease of access is one reason the black market has not seen a decrease since pot became legal across the country.

The other reason is the cost.

“Prices through black market avenues are quite a bit cheaper than what are offered in store. Because of this people are choosing to go with them to save a bit.

“We are confident that buy legal cannabis is safer, cleaner and better than anything you would get on the black market. You know exactly what you are getting with legal sellers,” Carle said.

There needs to be changes to stop the black market and help cannabis retailers survive, he says.

ACC is speaking with the Alberta Government and AGLC about what changes need to be made to help the industry thrive.

“It has been a bit of a grind getting them to listen… we are confident they want to talk,” said Carle.

Changes Carle and the ACC would like to see include providing funding to the police to actively go after black market sites.

In addition, Carle says there are changes that can be made to help the retailer.

A reduction to taxes and allowing retailers to advertise would help small retailers, he said.

John Larsen, owner of Valhalla Cannabis in Sylvan Lake, says the road blocks are “getting old.”

“There are so many things we would like to be able to do, but we can’t because it would be enticing people to buy,” Larsen said.

Larsen says as a small business owner he wants to be able to give back to his community, but says the AGLC rules against him in many avenues.

“I’m allowed a small little sign on my truck advertising my business. Only one and it is half the size of a piece of printer paper,” Larsen explained.

“They are really strict about what we can and cannot do.”

Carle believes Alberta can be a leader in the new and developing industry that is cannabis, but says the government needs to work with them to do that.

“The legalization of cannabis isn’t moving the black market to a legal market. It is its own thing and an entirely new industry,” Carle said.

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