Online sites — what to spot?

How to buy legal cannabis online in Alberta

If you’re looking to buy cannabis online in Alberta, you’ve got more options than ever. It’s now possible to buy online from many of Alberta’s licensed cannabis retailers.


Today, over 150 licensed cannabis retailers offer online sales, as do the number of illegal sites and sellers in operation, which can be dangerous and misleading.


So, with so many online options, how can you tell which sites are legal? And how can you spot illegal products?

Man couple online shopping

How to know if online cannabis products are legal

Legal cannabis products always have three easy-to-spot symbols: the standard Canadian symbol for THC, the excise stamp and the health warning label. And these labels are easy to spot because they have a yellow background, and the messages are in both English and French. Illegal cannabis will be missing these items. 


Other telltale signs that a cannabis product or website is not legal:

  • Colourful packaging: While it’s certainly more appealing – and looks like the other types of packaged goods we enjoy – these tempting products are not legal. In Canada, legal cannabis always comes in plain, solid-colour packaging. It clearly tells you what’s inside and is specifically meant not to appeal to children. It can’t easily be mistaken for candy or any other products. In this case, boring is better.
  • Cross-Canada shipping: Be wary of any retailer that ships across Canada. Licensed online cannabis sellers in Alberta can only sell within the province. 
  • Bulk sales and "deals": Illegal cannabis sites have no purchase limits and can offer 2-for-1 deals. The products they sell may be cheaper, but because they aren’t tested, they could have been grown anywhere and under any conditions and may also contain various chemicals. The legal sites limit the total quantity of cannabis that can be bought to a maximum of 30 grams per purchase.


Learn more about what legal looks like.

Light green cannabis leaf

Illegal online sellers can be sneaky

They might display similar types of images and symbols. So just seeing them on the packaging is not enough—you should also check that the business is listed in the cannabis licensee search tool.

Why buy legal cannabis?

There are many reasons why it’s better to buy legal:

  • Tested for impurities: Legal cannabis is tested for contaminants and unwanted ingredients. So, when you purchase it, you can be more confident about what's in it and what’s not, such as pesticides, bacteria, fungi, or cutting agents. 

Did you know? Recent testing found twenty-four distinct types of pesticides in samples of illegal cannabis.

  • Regulated potency levels: All legal cannabis products indicate the amount of THC and CBD they contain. This is especially important with oil and edible products, where your experience is directly related to your potency. However, a recent study completed by the University of Waterloo found that the THC and CBD content in illegal cannabis products was often incorrect, sometimes by as much as 10 times what was reported. 
  • Recalled when necessary: Regulated products can be recalled for several reasons, like incorrect potency levels, product quality, incorrect packaging, labelling errors, or if mould and/or microbials are found in the product. In these situations, you will be notified that you have a product that has been recalled and can return it.

What are the dangers of buying illegal cannabis?

  • Health risks: With illegal products, you can’t always be sure of what you’re getting or how much – so there can be a higher risk of a bad reaction or unintentional poisoning.
  • Packaging that appeals to children: Illegal cannabis packaging is more likely to appeal to children. Cannabis-related visits to the ER have gone up in Alberta since legalization, so it is best to safely store your cannabis products - locked up tight and out of sight.
  • Fraud and identity theft: By buying illegal products, you could get ripped off, become a victim of fraud, or even identity theft – without legal recourse as the product you purchased was illegal. This means you would be out of luck to get your money back, and there could be long term issues in the case of identity theft. And this goes for both buyers and sellers alike.

Is legal cannabis safer?

There is no such thing as “safe” cannabis – legal or otherwise. There are just degrees of safety and risk. Legal, regulated, tested cannabis products carry fewer risks than illegal cannabis products. But all have effects and side effects, some of which can be harmful to your health. Still have questions? Learn more about the health effects of cannabis.

How do I find legal cannabis online?

AGLC makes it easy:

  1. Use our licensee search toolThis tool shows all licensed cannabis retailers in Alberta. Look at the “Online Sales” column to see if they offer online sales. Click the link from the search tool to be taken to their site.
  2. Double-check the site: Once you're on the retailer's site, double-check that their license number is displayed. More on that below!

​​CS Licensee search

Online licence numbers

Legal cannabis websites in Alberta must display the following:

  • A link to the cannabis licensee search webpage
  • Their AGLC cannabis retailer licence number
  • The names and addresses of any of their licensed physical stores
  • Links to CannabisSense public education material

             ​​​​CannabisSense logo


             If any of these elements are missing, it's an illegal site!

Light green cannabis leaf

Buying online? Don't take chances

Before shopping online for legal cannabis products, do your research, and consult the cannabis licensee search tool.

Still have questions? Email us at