The Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch Enforcement Process
The role of the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) enforcement program for liquor and non-medical cannabis licensees is to ensure that:
- liquor licensees comply with the Liquor Control and Licensing Act (LCLA), the Liquor Control and Licensing Regulation, and the terms and conditions of their licence, authorization, or permit as applicable; and
- non-medical cannabis retail licensees comply with the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act (CCLA), the Cannabis Licensing Regulation, the Worker Qualification Regulation and the terms and conditions of their licence.
The goal of the branch is to minimize contraventions by liquor and cannabis licensees through education and voluntary compliance. Enforcement action may be necessary when there is a serious contravention or repeated contraventions of the LCLA, CCLA, associated regulations and/or the terms and conditions of a licence, authorization or permit.
The Authority of the General Manager
Section 51 of the Liquor Control and Licensing Act and section 38 of the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act authorize the general manager of the branch, with or without a hearing depending on the circumstances, to take action against a licensee for alleged contraventions of the LCLA, CCLA, associated regulations, and/or the terms and conditions of the licence, authorization or permit.
Roles and Responsibilities
Hearing Delegate for the Enforcement Hearing
The general manager has given authority to hearing delegates to adjudicate enforcement hearings. The hearing delegate conducting a hearing will consider the evidence and argument of the branch and the licensee, decide whether the alleged contravention(s) occurred and what enforcement action, if any, to impose.
The registrar ensures that issues related to enforcement hearings are consistently managed to ensure procedural fairness, and that licensees have ready access to information about the process, laws and policies. The registrar conducts pre-hearing conferences, schedules hearings and makes decisions on procedural matters that are raised before the hearing.
The branch advocate represents the branch at pre-hearing conferences and enforcement hearings. During the hearing, the branch advocate presents the branch’s evidence and makes submissions. The branch may also be represented by legal counsel, who may present legal arguments.
Liquor and Cannabis Inspector
Liquor and cannabis inspectors attend enforcement hearings as witnesses for the branch. They testify about the alleged contravention(s), the reasons for pursuing a particular enforcement action, and any prior compliance activity related to the licence or the licensee.
The Enforcement Process
Notice of Enforcement Action
If the general manager recommends enforcement action for an alleged contravention(s) of the LCLA, CCLA, associated regulations and/or the terms and conditions of the licence, authorization, or permit, the licensee will receive a Notice of Enforcement Action. The Notice of Enforcement Action will include information on the alleged contravention(s), the proposed enforcement action (i.e. proposed penalty), and the facts on which the alleged contravention(s) and proposed enforcement action are based.
When the licensee receive a Notice of Enforcement Action, the licensee or permittee may sign a waiver notice. Signing a waiver notice means that the licensee or permittee:
- agrees that they committed the contravention;
- accepts the enforcement action proposed in the Notice of Enforcement Action;
- waives the opportunity for an enforcement hearing on the matter; and
- agrees that the contravention will form part of their compliance history.
If a Notice of Enforcement Action contains more than one alleged contravention, the licensee may sign a waiver for one or more of the contraventions and dispute the others at a hearing.
Once the waiver is signed, the general manager issues an enforcement order outlining the action taken, the reasons for taking the action, and the details of the action. Any penalty must be paid within 30 days (or within a longer period if specified in the order), and is not subject to reconsideration.
The registrar may conduct a pre-hearing conference with the licensee and the branch advocate in order to:
- determine whether the licensee's response to the allegations necessitates holding an oral enforcement hearing;
- clarify and narrow the issues that will be dealt with at the enforcement hearing;
- identify and discuss the evidence (including witnesses) that will be presented at the enforcement hearing;
- set out the requirements for pre-hearing disclosure of evidence;
- schedule the enforcement hearing;
- set procedures to ensure a timely, fair and efficient hearing; and
- provide information to the licensee regarding the enforcement hearing process.
If the licensee does not participate in the pre-hearing conference, the licensee may lose the opportunity for an oral hearing and the general manager will base a decision on the written material only.
Hearings can be conducted by way of an oral hearing, teleconference call, written submissions, or any combination of these. The registrar will determine the location of the hearing and the manner in which it will be conducted. Penalty-only hearings will generally occur by way of written submissions. At the enforcement hearing, the licensee may assert that the alleged contravention(s) did not occur, and/or the proposed enforcement action is not warranted. The hearing delegate will consider both the licensee's and the branch’s evidence and argument and issue a written decision.
In general, the format for an oral or teleconference hearing will be as follows:
- The hearing delegate will make introductory comments, and the licensee and the branch advocate will introduce themselves;
- The hearing delegate will deal with any preliminary matters;
- The branch advocate will present the branch’s evidence of the contravention which may include documents, witnesses and an explanation of the branch’s reasons for the proposed enforcement action;
- the licensee or the licensee's representative may question the branch’s witnesses;
- The licensee may present evidence, including documents and witnesses;
- The branch advocate may question your witnesses
- The branch advocate will summarize the branch’s case and make final submissions on the alleged contravention(s) and the proposed penalty
- The licensee may summarize the licensee's case and make final submissions on the alleged contravention(s) and the proposed penalty; and
- The hearing delegate may ask questions of the participants at any time during the hearing.
If the hearing delegate finds that a contravention occurred and that enforcement action is warranted, the hearing delegate may do one or more of the following:
- add terms and conditions to a licence or rescind or amend existing terms and conditions;
- require the licensee or permittee to pay a monetary penalty in accordance with the applicable penalty schedule;
- suspend a licence in accordance with the applicable licence suspension schedule;
- cancel all or part of a liquor licence or cancel a non-medical cannabis retail licence; and
- order the licensee to transfer their licence, within a certain period, to a person who is at arm’s length from the licensee.
If the hearing delegate finds that the contravention(s) occurred and that a suspension and/or a monetary penalty is warranted, the hearing delegate must follow the minimums set out in the applicable schedule. The hearing delegate is not required to impose the penalty proposed in the Notice of Enforcement Action, and may impose higher penalties or suspensions than those in the applicable penalty or suspension schedule when it is in the public interest to do so.
The Enforcement Order
The hearing delegate will issue a decision after the hearing has concluded. Once the licensee has received the enforcement order, the branch will post the complete text of the decision on its website. Names of individuals and personal identifiers (where the licensee works, etc.) are removed to protect the related parties' privacy and comply with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
After an enforcement hearing, the licensee has 30 days in which to apply for a reconsideration of the enforcement order. Please see the page on Reconsideration Process for more information.