Canada’s Privacy Commissioner to Issue Guidelines for Buying Cannabis Online with a Credit Card

Posted November 28, 2018 by cccadmin in

Are you planning to buy cannabis with your credit card and you’re concerned about your credit card statement falling into the wrong hands? You’re not alone. Although it may be legal to buy marijuana in Canada, cannabis for recreational purposes remains illegal in most other jurisdictions.

We may share a lot of similarities with the U.S., but the legalization of cannabis isn’t one of them. Canadians are concerned their credit card purchase history could be used against them at the border by U.S. customs officers. This has prompted Canada’s privacy commissioner to plan to issue guidance for buyers and sellers of legal cannabis.

The Heart of the Issue

In Ontario where paying for legal marijuana in cash isn’t an option, there are concerns about information about those transactions being processed in a jurisdiction where the consumption of cannabis isn’t legal. This comes after a controversial Statistics Canada initiative to collect detailed bank records for all Canadians.

“Our office recognizes the sensitive nature of cannabis-related transactions — particularly if information about those transactions is processed in a jurisdiction where cannabis consumption is not legal,” said a spokeswoman for Canada’s privacy commissioner. “Organizations need to make it plain to individuals that their information may be processed in a foreign country, and that it may be accessible to law enforcement and national security authorities of that jurisdiction.”

How Other Provinces are Handling It

B.C. is ahead of the game when it comes to cannabis. It has already gone ahead and issued its own guidance and privacy-protection tips for cannabis consumers. It’s asking online sellers of cannabis to collect personal information, including names, dates of birth, home, addresses, credit card numbers, purchase history and email addresses.

But sharing personal information, especially online, adds extra risks. Cannabis is illegal in most other jurisdictions outside of Canada, therefore, the personal information of cannabis users is very sensitive.

Depending on the retailer, legal online cannabis purchases could show up in several different ways on your credit card statement. For example, if you’re in Manitoba, it will show as “D9-2 -8675309 Winnipeg MB” when buying cannabis from Delta 9. Meanwhile, in B.C., it appears as “BCS Online Vancouver,” in Nova Scotia is appears as “NSLC #2098/e-commerce Halifax” and in Newfoundland is appears as “NLC #700 St. John’s N.L.”

In Ontario, legal cannabis purchases will appear as “OCS/SOC” on credit card statements. Although there’s no precedent for travelling stateside since cannabis was just legalized in Canada, this could potentially cause you be profiled at the U.S. border.

And if cannabis companies are thinking of masking credit card purchases by calling them “organics” or other generic terms, think again. The Ontario Cannabis Store said that such a practice isn’t acceptable. You’re required to use your registered business name for payment services.

The Bottom Line

If you’re planning to use your credit card to legally buy cannabis, it’s important to know that this information could be used against you later on. Whether you’re crossing the border for a trip in the U.S. or you’re applying for auto insurance, your cannabis purchase history could come back to haunt you. In light of this, it might be wise to wait for Canada’s privacy commissioner to issue the guidelines before buying cannabis online.