NSLC cancelled ID scanner pilot program after being told it would handle retail cannabis

The Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC) scrapped a plan to implement ID scanners at its retail stores once it was told the NSLC was going to be in charge of retail cannabis in the province.

“In essence, our priorities changed,” said Beverley Ware, a spokesperson for the NSLC, in a phone interview on Wednesday.

That decision, which was made in late December, according to Ware, required a lot of the Crown corporation’s attention and resources, as they were given a short period of time to be ready for cannabis legalization.

That meant dumping a procurement process that was well underway, with companies having submitted and presented proposals to NSLC officials — here’s why.

More verification, more problems

According to internal documents and emails released to Global News under a freedom of information request, the NSLC was planning to place the ID scanners, which they refer to as ID verification devices, at five “high-volume NSLC stores with proximity to universities” as part of a pilot project. If successful, the company would have potentially expanded the program to 50 of its NSLC retail outlets.

“We conducted a series of focus groups with our retail employees to learn more about the challenges faced at store level when asking customers for identification,” an internal email from the NSLC’s manager of procurement, Tracey Darrigan, read.

“Overwhelmingly, the 20-something age group was identified as being the most confusing.”

According to a request for proposals (RFP) issued by the Crown corporation on Dec. 7, 2017, the goal of the project was to allow NSLC employees to quickly verify IDs by swiping an individual’s card and removing any doubt about whether the ID was fake.

Ware says the project would also have allowed customers to experience a faster checkout with minimal verification time.

The ID verification program was not originally intended to be placed in retail cannabis stores, although emails seem to indicate it was considered a few times during the procurement process once the NSLC was notified about its role in retailing cannabis.

“We will not place in cannabis zones day one until proof of concept finalized,” wrote Tim Pellerin, the NSLC’s senior vice-president and chief operating officer, in an email dated Jan. 30, 2018.

By February 2018, the staff at the Crown corporation were reviewing the final submissions for the project. But every one of them estimated the costs to be “significantly above the approved project proposal.”

External agencies were also interested in the implications of the project, with Nova Scotia’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner informing NSLC officials they had “significant interest” in the project, according to an email from Marie MacLeod, the Crown corporation’s IT project manager.

It appears the NSLC was worried about whether the Crown corporation would conduct a privacy impact assessment on the project, which the NSLC did not have included as part of the project.

But by March 2018 and with the legalization of cannabis on the horizon, the project was well and truly dead, and Ware has confirmed that the NSLC is not planning to bring it back anytime soon.

“We’ve cancelled the RFP, and it’s not something we’re looking at now,” she said.

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© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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