AGLC allows stores to remove window coverings

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Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis (AGLC) has removed a rule around cannabis product display some retailers say has contributed to a spate of robberies targeting the industry.

In a letter from AGLC sent to cannabis retailers Tuesday and obtained by Postmedia, the commission says it has removed its regulation that prohibited cannabis products and accessories from being visible from a store’s exterior. To meet that requirement, stores had to install window coverings.

Officials said the decision was made to boost safety at the stores, which have increasingly become the targets of crime.

“AGLC is aware of a significant rise in commercial robberies at licensed cannabis retail locations in recent months, in particular in the city of Calgary,” the letter said.

“Use of violence and weapons has occurred in some commercial robberies, and AGLC is concerned for the safety of staff, customers and responding police officers.”

In a statement, AGLC said it was “deeply concerned” about rising robberies, and added it has worked with retailers and law enforcement on options for boosting safety.

Calgary Police were unable to provide up-to-date data Tuesday on cannabis store robberies in the city this year. But the force said it has logged an uptick in robberies, with 29 in 2021, and 10 in 2022 through March 18.

High Tide, the company that operates Canna Cabana stores in Alberta, welcomed the removal of the policy, originally put in place to keep products out of view of minors.

“What the regulation meant was that, in essence, cannabis stores became prime targets for criminal elements. And the reason is, if you were looking perhaps to break into a store, rob a store for cash or product, you’re more likely to choose a target where people can’t really see what’s going on from the outside,” High Tide senior vice-president Omar Khan said.

“It was creating a significant safety issue for our employees — and not just ours, but employers across the retail cannabis sector . . . It was an unintended consequence, but it was a significant consequence.”

Break-ins and attempted robberies at Canna Cabana stores have been spiking across the country recently, Khan said, but particularly in Alberta.

He said his company plans to remove window coverings at its locations after ensuring they are continuing to comply with provincial and federal regulations.

The decision was also good news for Jim Ramadan, whose family owns the Bow Cannabis store in Calgary’s Bowness neighbourhood. He said his staff have brought up safety concerns, particularly when closing the store at night.

“I think it’s long overdue,” Ramadan said. “It’s a big peace of mind and we’ll definitely be looking to changing up our window coverings soon here. Also, from a business perspective, it’s really nice that they relaxed it so we can be a little more open, a little more friendly.”

In its letter to retailers, AGLC said the policy change is meant to mitigate robberies, meaning stores shouldn’t replace window coverings with outward-facing promotions or advertisements.

Officials added that federal prohibitions on displays remain in place, and advised retailers to ensure security features including video recordings and alarm systems are in working order.

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