Saskatoon

Future Sask. pot sellers assessing how online sales will figure into business model

People in Saskatchewan will be able to buy recreational marijuana online. The big question now is whether that's how they want to get their pot.

Province wants online sales kept inside Sask. borders

Buying recreational pot online could be attractive to rural customers who do not have a pot store in their community. (CBC)

Andrew MacCorquodale says Canopy Growth Corporation is going to sell recreational marijuana online when it becomes legal, but how much of the company's business will come through the internet is a wild card.

Canopy emerged as one of the big winners in the lottery to see which applicants get to sell pot legally in Saskatchewan. The company won five of the 51 permits — the largest single allotment in the province.

Canopy already supplies medical marijuana to patients with legal prescriptions. MacCorquodale said it will draw on that model when setting up the recreational side.

MacCorquodale said it's going to be interesting to see how the online side of the business evolves.

For instance, he said someone may go to the retail store initially to check out the selection of products and get a sense of the owners.

"Once you know what you like and you just want to re-order, it's quite possible that the e-commerce platform may become more popular for its convenience factor," he said.

ID on delivery

One of the big issues is verifying the age and identity of the customer.

"Without question, new customers would be age-verified, and the recipient of the product upon delivery would be age-verified and verified against the individual who ordered it," he said.

The province is also curious about how the online sales side will shake out. Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Corp. (SLGA) spokesperson David Morris said ensuring the age and identity of the customers is a concern.

Getting those checks and balances in place will be the responsibility of the retailer, he said.

"The term and condition of their permit, they will have to ensure that they're not selling to minors, they'll have to use a carrier that has an ID-ing process as part of a condition of their sale," he said.

Verifying the age of online pot buyers will be one of the challenges for retailers. (Geoff Turner/CBC)

Morris said the province is also looking at ways to ensure that the Saskatchewan companies sell to Saskatchewan customers.

"As the regulator and permit holder we would expect that they would comply with the rules in terms of where they're selling product," he said.

"Certainly if there is an issue, there is a sanctioning process. Fines, or warning or suspension of the permit."

Internet can serve smaller communities

Morris said it's not clear how the legal online sales will affect, or be affected by, the black market for marijuana already on the internet.

He said that customers may find it more attractive to go the legal route because of quality assurance.

He added that the companies may find an online market in the hundreds of small communities in the province where there are customers for recreational marijuana but no local pot store.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Zakreski is a reporter for CBC Saskatoon.

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