Throughout 2019, the Edmonton Police Service began seizing illicit cannabis shipments coming into the city. Many of these shipments were traced back to websites that were illegally selling, distributing or promoting recreational cannabis products in contravention of the federal Cannabis Act.
“These illegal websites would often feature misleading statements that suggested to would-be buyers that the site is legal,” says Cst. Dexx Williams, EPS Cannabis Compliance Officer. “We have also seen instances of youth who were in possession of cannabis that was identified as being from some of these illicit sites.”
In Alberta, the AGLC is federally appointed as the provincial body with the authority to sell recreational cannabis products online. As such, the AGLC website albertacannabis.org is currently the only legal online retailer of recreational cannabis in Alberta. (For people with medical cannabis prescriptions, a list of licensed cultivators, processors and sellers of medical cannabis is available through Health Canada.)
Starting the week of March 16, 2020, the EPS began seizing more than 100 web addresses of websites illegally selling, distributing or promoting cannabis products in contravention of the Cannabis Act, and launched an online advertising campaign to help educate the public about illegal websites.
Screenshot of seized domain
“As part of this investigation, we are identifying individuals who may have ordered from or communicated with these sites, and may have additional evidence related to their activities and the individuals running them,” says Const. Williams. “This is a unique investigative approach for police, and we believe this will strengthen our evidence against the individuals involved while also directing citizens to legal avenues to purchase their cannabis.”
EPS ads warn citizens that websites selling recreational cannabis are often illegal, and direct them to information about how to buy cannabis safely online.
Williams warns that under the provincial Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act, a business convicted of selling cannabis without a licence may be subject to a fine of up to $50,000, and individuals involved in the sale of illegal cannabis may face a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment up to six months.
Under the federal Cannabis Act, individuals selling or distributing illicit cannabis face up to 14 years in jail, and individuals in possession of illicit cannabis face imprisonment of up to five years or a fine of up to $5,000.