Individuals (sole proprietors), partnerships, corporations and Indigenous Nations that are interested in selling cannabis products can apply for a cannabis retail store licence to sell non-medical cannabis and cannabis accessories.
The Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (the “LCRB”) regulates British Columbia’s private non-medical cannabis retail stores. Applicants must apply through the cannabis licensing application portal on the LCRB’s website.
The information below outlines the application process to obtain a non-medical cannabis retail store licence in British Columbia.
Licence Application Eligibility
Applicants, except for Indigenous Nations, must be registered in B.C. as sole proprietors, partnerships or corporations; have a Business Number (nine-digit number issued by the Canada Revenue Agency); and set up a Business BCeID account. It is also worth noting that prior to submitting an application, an applicant must own, lease or have an agreement in place to lease a proposed retail store location.
Applicants should also be aware that any connection to a federal producer (as such term is defined in the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act) may hinder an applicant from successfully obtaining a licence.
The Application Process
The first step in the application process is completing and submitting the requisite forms and documents. These consist of:
- cannabis retail store licence application;
- applicant financial integrity form;
- applicant financial statements and projections;
- floorplan and site plan of the proposed retail location;
- list of key personnel; and
- other incorporating documents or partnership records (if applicable).
An application fee of $7,500 must also be paid at that time.
Any associate of an applicant will also have to complete certain forms and provide certain financial disclosures, including a financial integrity form, an identity verification and witness consent form, and a consent for cannabis security screening form.
An “associate” is defined in the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act as a person who, in the general manager’s opinion, may have direct or indirect influence over the licensee or applicant; may be able to affect, directly or indirectly, the activities carried out under the licence; or may have a prescribed direct or indirect connection to the licensee or applicant. Associates include any officer or directors of the applicant company, any significant shareholder (i.e. a person holding 20% or more of the voting shares of the applicant, though this determination is at the discretion of the LCRB) and any individuals listed as key personnel. These requirements apply to both public and private corporation applicants.
Where the applicant is a private corporation and has one or more corporate shareholders, the LCRB requires disclosure of upstream associates throughout the corporate ownership chain until the ultimate individual shareholders are identified.
For example, if Company A is the applicant, and Company B is a significant shareholder of Company A, both Company B and any of Company B’s significant shareholders would be considered associates of Company A. If Company B had any significant shareholders which were also corporations, those corporations may also have to disclose the identity of their shareholders, until such point that all connected shareholders are disclosed to the point of reaching an individual person.
Every associate of an applicant would have to complete the requisite forms and make the appropriate disclosures. Public corporation applicants could face similar disclosure requirements following further requests by the LCRB.
Local Government Approval
The second step in the application process is to obtain approval from the local government where the proposed retail store is to be located – or in the case of a reserve, Nisga’a Land or treaty settlement land, the approval of the appropriate Indigenous authority.
Depending on the zoning of the proposed retail store, other local government permits and licences may also be required.
Once a local government or Indigenous authority approves the licence being granted in the proposed area, a positive recommendation is made to the LCRB. The LCRB will consider, but is not bound by, the recommendation to issue a licence when making its licensing decision
Conditional Approval for Licence
Following the security check and financial integrity review of the applicant and a positive recommendation from the local government, the LCRB may grant conditional approval. Once conditional approval is granted, an applicant may need to make further changes to the retail store to match the description submitted with the application (including floor plan, exterior signage, window covering, etc.).
Store Inspection and Final Approval
Following completion of any necessary renovations or changes, LCRB inspectors will assess whether the store meets provincial regulations and any requirements established by the applicable local government or Indigenous authority.
The applicant cannot order, possess or sell cannabis until the licence application has been granted final approval. Once the inspection has been passed and the LCRB confirms that all requirements have been met, including payment of a $1,500 licensing fee, the applicant will be granted a licence, which must be displayed in a prominent place in the licensed store.
We have a team of lawyers with experience in the legal cannabis industry in Canada. Please connect with our lawyers for more information on the application process and licensing of non-medical cannabis retail stores.
Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.