Original cannabis journalism for Canadians

Cannabis excise stamps: Collect 'em all!

Legal cannabis sales in Canada will be subject to an excise tax, a special federal levy imposed before the product is sold to the end consumer.

How will the government know whether that excise tax has actually been paid?

You guessed it — legal cannabis producers will have to prove they've paid up by marking their product with special government stamps. Recently released information from the Canadian Revenue Agency reveals how those stamps will work.

Before sending any cannabis products to wholesalers or retailers, legal cannabis companies will need to mark those products with a cannabis excise stamp purchased directly from the CRA. The stamps will come in special colours indicating the province or territory in which the product is intended to be sold, the agency says.

Each stamp will be 20 millimetres by 40 millimetres in size, with a unique identifying code. An engraved latent image will show the letter "C" when viewed from certain angles. "Colour shift ink" will also change colours when the stamp is tilted, and "anti-copy line work" will make the stamps harder to fake.

If that wasn't enough, the stamps will include ink that's only viewable under a blacklight.

In order to get the stamps, cannabis licensees will have to register with the CRA and order online in bundles of 500. Those licensees will need to keep careful track of their stamps — the CRA will impose penalties if any stamps go unaccounted for.

Aside from legal cannabis producers and some other licensees, anyone selling or possessing unstamped, unpackaged cannabis products would be in violation of the federal Excise Act. Cannabis meant for legal export, or cannabis defined as a low-THC cannabis product or a prescription cannabis drug wouldn't require the stamps.

Stamp aficionados should be aware that cannabis excise stamps aren't meant for the general public. According to the CRA, the stamps are only supposed to be possessed by CRA authorized stamp providers, cannabis licensees and anyone authorized to transport the stamps.

Cannabis excise stamps are proof that the federal government plans to exert close control over the legal cannabis market. If cannabis producers want to keep their valuable licences intact, they'll have no choice but to become stamp collectors.

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