British Columbia

Prepared for a crash: Province expects hit from high-volume online pot orders Oct. 17

The province is anticipating high traffic volume when online marijuana sales go live. It says it's been working for months to crash-proof the website.

Tech experts will be on hand overnight to ensure web sales run smoothly

The province says it's been working for months to ensure its marijuana sales website doesn't crash on its first day. (Ted S. Warren/Associated Press)

When B.C.'s online pot sales go live at midnight on Oct. 17, the government is expecting hundreds of thousands of British Columbians to click on its new website.

They might want to be a part of history and count themselves among the first to buy legal recreational marijuana.

"We see similar things when tickets go on sale or a new video game comes out — a high level of traffic concentrated on one site," says Vancouver-based tech expert Graham Williams.

And sometimes that concentrated traffic leads to one big crash.

But Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says the government has anticipated that.

"There's been a lot of work on ensuring the site will do what it's supposed to do and the portal will work the way it's anticipated," says Farnworth.

A team of IT specialists will be monitoring it overnight to make sure all goes smoothly.

75 strains to be available online

The online store managed by B.C's  Liquor Distribution Branch will use Shopify Inc.'s e-commerce platform and will feature around 75 strains of pot at the time of launch.

Orders will be processed within 48 hours of being placed, but delivery time will vary based on the shipping address provided by the customer.

The government has stayed tight lipped about which third-party delivery service it is using, saying contracts are still being finalized. That's going to leave little time to train drivers about the rules around delivery.

One point is clear: Customers who place the order must accept it and show ID proving they are 19 or older.

Carriers who deliver it without checking "would be subject to significant penalties," says Farnworth.

The online marijuana stores for Ontario and B.C. will use Shopify Inc.'s e-commerce platform. (CBC)

Experts warn against buying online

When placing an order you'll be asked for your name, age and credit card number.

The B.C. government claims it has established a series of safeguards to make sure your information isn't leaked, but the details around who has access aren't clear.

"The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner has reviewed everything we've done and has agreed with the process that's being used and the way in which the system has been designed," says Farnworth.

But Ann Cavoukian, Ontario's former privacy commissioner and now an expert at Ryerson University, cautions against using the online portal.

"You don't know what's going to happen with your information especially online. You don't know what protections or lack thereof are associated with it," she says.

One of the main concerns is that recretional marijuana is illegal under federal U.S. law — although legal in nine states and Washington, D.C. — so a privacy breach with purchasing information could result in some Canadians having a harder time crossing the border.

"It's wide open, people need to be very careful," says Cavoukian.


Anita Bathe

Co-host, CBC Vancouver News at 6pm

Anita Bathe is co-host of CBC Vancouver's flagship newscast. She remains committed to working in the field, telling stories that matter and giving citizens a voice. Bathe is a multiple RTDNA award winner, a recipient of the Jack Webster Fellowship and she's won several BCAB awards for her in-depth reporting on breaking news.