Dispensary Laws and Regulations for Canadian Retailers

Last updated, March 20, 2019.

With Canada set to make history by becoming the largest country in the world to fully legalize adult-use cannabis in October 17, 2018, the opportunities for retail-focused entrepreneurs are vast. Forecasts estimate annual recreational marijuana retail sales of up to $4.5 billion by 2021.

At Cova, we understand the unique needs of cannabis retailers. Our dispensary POS software and touchscreen menu solutions are used in hundreds of dispensaries across North America. And as a Canada-based company, we couldn’t be more excited to help fellow Canadian businesses put their best foot forward in the emerging marijuana market.

Our parent company, iQmetrix, provides retail management and point-of-sale software to over 19,000 retail locations throughout North America. Our experience in scaling for large, multi-store retail operations uniquely qualifies us to work with both provincial government organizations and private entrepreneurs looking to run cannabis dispensaries.

Compliance Reporting

Though details of provincial and territorial regulations are still under construction, we do know that compliance with record-keeping and reporting requirements will be of chief concern to all cannabis operators. In its proposed approach to cannabis regulation, Health Canada has stipulated that all licensed cannabis activity—including sales, deliveries, and losses—must be recorded in the national Cannabis Tracking System (CTS).

As a retailer, your point-of-sale (POS) is the heart of your operation. All your transactions flow through this system—wouldn’t it be great if it could capture all the reportable data and transmit it directly to the CTS?

Because traditional retail industries don’t have the same detailed reporting requirements as the cannabis industry, traditional retail POS solutions aren’t equipped to facilitate this kind of seamless integration with the CTS.

At Cova, we’ve developed a point-of-sale specifically for marijuana retailers. Cova POS will be integrated directly to the Cannabis Tracking System that each province chooses, so retailers can report automatically to the government. This automated process not only saves you countless hours in reconciling inventory and sales, but also helps you avoid human errors that could cost you your license.

Throughout the United States, hundreds of cannabis dispensaries rely on Cova’s POS to keep them compliant with state reporting requirements—and we’re ready to help our fellow Canadian cannabis businesses do the same. 

Cannabis Marketing Restrictions

According to Health Canada’s regulations, “Unless authorized under the Cannabis Act, it is prohibited to promote cannabis or a cannabis accessory or any service related to cannabis.” These prohibitions include advertising cannabis through testimonials, endorsements, or portraying cannabis as if it’s linked to “a way of life such as one that includes glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring.”
Guidelines for cannabis marketing are still lacking and Health Canada evaluates each violation on a case-by-case basis. Many provinces rely on the federal advertising regulations, but some provinces like Alberta and British Columbia have slight variations. 
Generally speaking, cannabis retailers cannot use the following marketing techniques: 
- Paid Google, Facebook, or Instagram Ads
- Use celebrity endorsement
- Outdoor Signage (although some provinces, like Alberta, allows signage but limits the content to name and address)
- Using coupons
- Free samples
- Show cannabis product on your website
- Sell merchandise
- Communicating information about price
The following marketing techniques are allowed:
- Creating a strong online presence 
- Building your brand
- Engage customers through social media
- Content marketing to drive organic search 
- Certain types of cannabis events, generally limited to intra-industry events
- Email marketing
- Informational Promotion (must be communicated to individuals 18 years + and is identified by name)
Cannabis retailers are expected to place advertisements in places where minors are not allowed. And if an advertisement is done via telecom, a retailer must prove they have taken reasonable steps to ensure the audience is 18+.

Overview of Canadian Dispensary Laws and Regulations by Province / Territory

Currently, there are more questions than answers regarding regulatory frameworks within Canada's territories and provinces. We've compiled what we do know in the pages linked in the map below (click on a highlighted province), and we'll keep this page updated regularly so you can stay ahead of the curve.


Ron Segev

Cannabis Business Lawyer & Founding Partner, Segev LLP

Legally reviewed by

Ron Segev

Ron Segev is the founding partner of Segev LLP. A practical-minded business lawyer with expertise in the cannabis industry, he represents cultivators, dispensaries, CBD extractors, oil extractors, food processors, media and marketing companies, consultancies, and other businesses in the legal cannabis market.

View Ron's full bio


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