Article by Jason Herring, Calgary Sun
Some Alberta weed retailers are growing frustrated with new Health Canada rules that they say stifle their ability to promote their business.
The growing resentment has led business owners to band together to form the Cannabis Retailer Association of Alberta (CRAA), a group they hope will help provide a voice to represent the industry to provincial and national regulatory bodies — and potentially front a legal challenge against the “suffocating” new regulations.
“I can’t even put my name on a billboard,” said Clarence Shields, the owner of the Nisku Northern Lights Supply cannabis dispensary and a CRAA founder. “I can’t put up my logo. I can’t put, ‘Now open.’
“My lawyer says I should challenge it full bore and go right to the Supreme Court. It’s just silly what they’re doing.”
Under new Health Canada regulations, any public advertisements for cannabis products or retailers, including billboards, can have a surface area no larger than 300 square centimetres — about half the size of a standard piece of printer paper. The new regulations came into effect on Oct. 17.
It’s a concern echoed by retailers across Alberta. Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) — the body responsible for enforcing Health Canada regulations in the province — issued an official warning to Trevor Bamsey, owner of the Hinton-based Rocky Mountain Collective pot stores, over two billboards promoting his company, one in Hinton and one near Edson.
“I pay a significant amount every month for that billboard and I’m locked into the contract,” said Bamsey, who has to take down his signage by Nov. 15 or face sanctions from AGLC. “And it cost me almost three grand to make the billboard, which I just have to roll up and throw away, I guess.”
AGLC confirmed that it is contacting retailers in contravention of new signage rules.
“For licensees that we are aware of that are not in compliance with the federal requirements, they will be contacted by an inspector and advised of necessary action to take,” said AGLC communications manager Heather Holmen in an email. “Failure to meet these requirements could result in sanctions against a licensee.”
Bamsey says his billboards, which included his logo and the addresses of his stores, represented one of the only ways he could promote his business.