No touching! Plus 5 other rules to expect inside Sask.'s legal pot shops

Smelling stations? Check. Rewards programs for frequent tokers? Not in Saskatchewan.

Smelling stations? Check. Rewards programs? Not so much

Saskatchewan's 51 cannabis retailers will be subject to a slew of rules and restrictions, like not being able to offer customers a rewards program or munchies. (David Horemans/CBC)

Jim Southam originally wanted to call his Prince Albert pot store Prairie Cannabis Dispensary. Then he read the rules.

Turns out the word "dispensary" is a no-go with the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA).

"The words 'pharmacy,' 'apothecary' and 'dispensary' all have meanings linked to the selling of medicines so these words cannot be used in association with a non-medical cannabis store," reads the agency's Cannabis Regulatory Policy Manual.

CBC Saskatoon has obtained a copy of the 58-page manual, intended for the province's budding crop of 51 legal pot stores.

The document also warns owners against any store names that might impede their ability to advertise, pointing to the federal Cannabis Act, which, according to the SLGA, "limits the use of lifestyle elements for the promotion of cannabis and cannabis services."

That's why Torrance Aitken, one of Weyburn, Sask.'s two future cannabis retailers, played it safe with his store name, Wheatland Cannabis.

"It's gotta be mom and pop," he said. "Not 'The Jolly Green Giant.'"

Weyburn cannabis retailer Torrance Aitken said restrictions spurred him to go with a relatively benign store name: Wheatland Cannabis. (Torrance Aitken)

Here's a guide to five other rules customers may want to know before they check out a store on Oct. 17.

Repeat breaches (especially the sale of product to people under the age of 19) could cost operators anywhere from $2,500 to $25,000 in fines or even, in the most extreme case, the cancellation of their operating permit.

Note: The manual reviewed by CBC Saskatoon is not advertised as the final draft and the SLGA says it may even tweak the rules into the year 2021.

1. No sampling

Arguably the strictest area of the handbook has to do with how cannabis is handled in-store. Only employees (who have to take this responsible cannabis sales training) can access sealed packages. The packages have to go in locked display cases or glassed-in counter displays.

Customers can smell unsealed cannabis samples, but only from sealed displays and only samples that are secured by tethers or even radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, which electronically track a product's movement.

"They're making it so prohibitive that it's not even worth trying to have a display, period," said Aitken.

"Rumours are some of the [licenced producers] are going to have packages that you can do the smelling from," he added.

Southam is also going display-free.

"[Unsealed samples] either have to be returned to the licenced producer or you have to call in an SLGA inspector and destroy it with them witnessing it," said Southam.

Jim Southam, who is opening a cannabis retail store in Prince Albert, says the after-hours safe storage requirements are "overboard." (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

"We're going to have a shortage of cannabis in the first year to two years. I don't want to destroy any cannabis."

After stores close for the day, cannabis will have to be stored in either a 341-kilogram safe or a secure, steel-enforced room.

"They're going a little overboard," said Southam. "But I mean, better to start off a little more strict."

2. No late-night munchies

Stores will be allowed to stay open until 3 a.m. CST, but anyone hoping for a one-stop shopping trip for Doritos, Coke and cannabis is out of luck.

"Examples of products not considered [cannabis] ancillary items include tobacco products, lottery tickets, snack foods and beverages," reads the manual.

Southam will offer customers brownie mixes and tinctures and "you can bake your brownies at home."

Magazines are allowed, but only cannabis-related ones. Branded apparel and cannabis cookbooks are okay too.

"Cannabis retail stores cannot sell ancillary items that, in SLGA's opinion, may encourage the overconsumption of cannabis," according to the manual. See item 3 for more on that.

3. No frequent-toker miles

That's right; cannabis stores can't offer rewards programs.

Southam is hoping the SLGA will be open to what he calls a more "environmental policy," however.

"Because there will be a lot of packaging and possible hard plastic containers, we're going to be starting a recycling program in our store," he said. "We'd like to provide some type of incentive for customers to return their recycled packaging if at all possible."

Aitken wasn't surprised by this rule.

"The liquor store doesn't offer a loyalty program; 'buy 9 bottles, get your 10th for free,'" he said.

4. Costco shoppers, be warned

One reusable grocery bag will do you fine: Customers are limited to one transaction of no more than 30 grams of dried cannabis or its equivalent in fresh cannabis or cannabis oil, plants and seeds.

According to the manual, one gram of dried cannabis is equal to:

  • five grams of fresh cannabis.
  • 15 grams of solids containing cannabis.
  • 70 grams of non-solids containing cannabis.
  • One cannabis plant seed.

SLGA can establish minimum prices, but hasn't yet.

5. Online sales

The meaning of a rule about online sales was unclear until Tuesday. 

In the "Product Offerings and Pricing" section of its manual, the SLGA states, "All sales and any related deliveries must be made only to Saskatchewan residents located in Saskatchewan."

Aitken thought that meant out-of-province customers couldn't buy at a Saskatchewan store, whereas Southam thought the rule applied only to online sales.

Southam's right, the SLGA confirmed.

"Cannabis sold online by Saskatchewan retailers can only be delivered within Saskatchewan," said David Morris with the SLGA. 

About the Author

Guy Quenneville

Reporter and web writer for CBC Saskatoon

Story tips, ideas, complaints, just want to say 'Hi'? Write me at guy.quenneville@cbc.ca