Alberta’s Cannabis SellSafe Course
For those in Alberta looking to become cannabis retail workers, the AGLC’s recently released SellSafe course is one of two necessary certifications needed. It is an online course offered alongside other similar courses for the alcohol and hospitality industries, and available to anyone whether they are in the process of applying to a retail cannabis store or not.
SellSafe certification is valid for 5 years and may be revoked for contravening regulations such as selling to minors. After passing the SellSafe exam, one must also apply to become a Qualified Cannabis Worker, or QCW which also expires every 5 years on the birthday of the applicant. Applying to become a QCW is relatively straightforward, the application is located on the AGLC’s website and requires personal information, your SellSafe certification information and a declaration of whether you have ever been charged with a criminal offence. A criminal record check from within the last 3 months is also required if you have not completed a personal disclosure as part of the process in applying for an AGLC cannabis retail location license.
SellSafe, like other training offerings from the AGLC is heavily predicated on social responsibility, which extends beyond the sale of cannabis to conduct of customers in the establishment as well as ensuring individuals leaving the retail location have a safe way home. Liability for improper retailing of cannabis is also discussed, although this is far reduced from the liability a licensed alcohol establishment might have given there is no sampling of cannabis permitted at retail locations. Multiple portions of the course highlight that retail staff must tell customers to talk to a medical professional if they inquire about the effects of different strains, so cannabis buyers will likely have to turn to their social circle or cannabis review sites when considering the best strain for them.
The retail cannabis store handbook is a repository of policies and guidelines for AGLC license compliance, and is referenced by SellSafe as further educational material. Notable details from the handbook are that like liquor stores, the maximum hours of operation are between 10:00 AM and 2:00 AM 7 days a week, although individual locations may choose to limit these hours further. Employees are mandated to not be under the influence of cannabis during work hours, although this is not likely to be enforced via any screening methods. Minors are not allowed in cannabis retail locations, and signage must reflect this. There is not currently any minimum price for cannabis enforced by the AGLC, although they reserve the right to do this in the future.
On the handling of cannabis by customers, it is not permitted to either open a package or be in possession of an open package in the store, unless returning the product for a refund. There is also no ‘sampling’ of cannabis permitted in retail locations. The maximum allowable product quantities sold in one visit to a cannabis store are 30 grams of flower, 30 seeds or the equivalent of 30 grams of flower in cannabis oil. If the transaction contains multiple product types, they must not exceed the equivalent of 30 grams of cannabis (1 cannabis seed is treated as 1 gram of flower). Sensory display containers, or ‘sniff jars’ are unique to Alberta and allow buyers to smell, but not touch cannabis they are about to purchase.
The cannabis sold must not be illicit, meaning that it must come from the legal ecosystem, be in the original sealed packaging, and not altered in any way. AGLC inspectors and police officers may demand documentation to prove all product sold is legal. If an employee is found to have sold cannabis to a minor, they will lose their certifications and will not be able to recertify for a period of 5 years, also rendering them ineligible to work in a retail location during that time. For the purposes of ID verification, anyone appearing under the age of 25 must present acceptable identification.
SellSafe covers the cannabis basics: The difference between CBD and THC, trichromes, terpenes, and which forms of cannabis will be legal and illegal at the outset of legalization. Negative effects of consuming cannabis are also covered, with special attention being given to the Low Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines (LRCUG). Combining alcohol and cannabis is heavily discouraged as well.
Cannabis myths are also covered by SellSafe, although only myths that may encourage cannabis use are dispelled such as cannabis being harmless because it is a natural substance, and cannabis use making an individual a safer driver. Signs that a customer may be under the influence of cannabis are highlighted to aid employees in denying service on that basis. There are 50 individual signs covered, most falling under the category of concentration or body coordination.
The controversial issue of cannabis impaired driving is covered by the program, outlining Alberta’s zero tolerance policy under the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program, and that if convicted an individual will have the option of living with a year long suspension or participating in the ignition interlock program.
Standard fare such as a unit on teamwork, and introduction to the concept of house policies are also covered, which are useful for those new to retail in general or who haven’t worked in the liquor / hospitality industries before and taken similar courses like ProServe.
Staff interaction with customers is heavily emphasized, including proper ways to greet them, how to ID someone, monitoring them within the store, as well as taking steps to make sure they do not drive if they are deemed to be intoxicated. The course also goes into a detailed review of the acceptable types of identification, covering nuances such as the fact that Alberta health care cards are not acceptable ID because unlike Ontario they do not contain a photo.
Overall, SellSafe is a very positive beginning to cannabis industry training in Alberta. As well as covering the core cannabis topics, material such as teamwork, policies, and handling difficult situations are covered which will prove useful to those new to retail or who have not worked in an industry regulated by the AGLC before. End of topic and unit tests are provided before the final exam which helps with retaining knowledge gathered from the material.
While it is understandable that a regulatory training course, especially immediately after cannabis prohibition ends would err on the side of caution, SellSafe does perpetuate some stigma around cannabis use by use of stereotypical photos of cannabis users in the same vein of the infamous ‘weed toque girl’ photo. Some questionable claims are also made, such as there being no safe amount of cannabis to use, cannabis impairment can last for 24 hours after use, and that driving skills may be impaired for up to 2 weeks after cannabis use. SellSafe does not explicitly state that these claims are scientifically proven, however someone taking the course may have that impression given the information is coming from a provincial government agency.
For those wishing to obtain employment, SellSafe is very reasonably priced, coming in under 30 dollars. While an employer can opt to give a voucher code to employees during the hiring process, taking SellSafe and then applying to become a QCW will help make you a more attractive applicant to potential employers.