B.C. partners with Shopify for cannabis e-commerce sales

Province now hiring 130 workers for 70,000-square-foot cannabis distribution centre in Richmond

This is the logo that the B.C. government plans to use for government-run cannabis stores | B.C. government

The B.C. government will follow Ontario’s strategy for how to execute e-commerce sales by partnering with Ottawa-based Shopify to launch sales in early fall, the province announced June 22.

Retail sales Canadawide are set to launch on October 17.

Other news is that the British Columbia Liquor Distribution Branch (BCLDB) will warehouse cannabis at a new 70,000-square-foot distribution centre on No. 6 Road in Richmond and use that centre to supply private retail-store operators, the government-run BC Cannabis Stores division of the BCLDB and the provincial online store.

That warehouse will employ 130 employees and the BCLDB is now hiring those workers, according to the government.

Many cannabis-sector entrepreneurs have questioned the need for an additional layer of bureaucracy and to have a special warehouse for cannabis but Blain Lawson, LDB’s general manager and CEO, defended the move.

“Every decision we make, as we introduce cannabis to our business, is underpinned by the social responsibility we have to our communities, to prevent minors from accessing cannabis, to reduce the criminal element, and to prioritize the health and safety of our customers,” he said.

Lawson’s branch of the government evaluated many companies that had bid to provide the B.C. government with e-commerce services for cannabis sales, and it chose Shopify because it met a list of requirements that included:

•creating two separate websites to fulfill online orders (one for consumers, and another for private retail stores);

•enabling age verification on the BC Cannabis Stores’ retail website;

•linking with the BCLDB’s various systems, including its warehouse management system; and

•supporting a customer care centre with up-to-date technology and strong customer services, according to the government.

“Shopify was chosen for its proven record of on-time execution, user-friendly design and long-term approach to anticipating consumer needs beyond the implementation phase,” Lawson said.

Ontario in February selected Shopify to handle its e-commerce needs.

Those who order cannabis via e-commerce from the government’s website will have to provide identification to the courier company that delivers the cannabis in order to ensure that youth do not access the drug.

In-store pick-up of online orders will not be an option at the beginning but may be offered in the future.

If you are interested in learning more about opportunities in the cannabis sector, and hearing a panel presentation that Business in Vancouver is hosting on July 12, check out BIV's Business Excellence Series: Legalizing Cannabis at the Vancouver Club.