Pubdate: Wed, 11 Jan 2017
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Gordon Kent
Page: A7


The owners of a new Edmonton cannabis information centre hope they can
spark the city's interest in permitting local retail marijuana sales.

The Green Room opened a storefront operation at 8126 Gateway Blvd. last
month that gives medical marijuana advice and Skype consultations with a
Vancouver doctor. It also sells memberships so people can buy products at
the company's six B.C. dispensaries.

"We're here to provide information to people seeking access and
consultation with a health-care practitioner ... in hopes of becoming a
dispensary once the city allows it," Green Room president Frederick Pels

"We have kind of strategically placed ourselves here."

Federal law now requires medical marijuana purchases to be shipped by one
of 37 registered producers, although the government has promised to
introduce legislation this spring legalizing recreational pot.

The legalization task force report released in December recommended
provinces and territories collaborate with municipalities to regulate
sales, with density and location limits to keep stores a suitable distance
from schools, community centres and parks.

Medical marijuana dispensaries have opened across the country despite the
existing rules, with cities taking different approaches.

Vancouver began issuing business licences to some dispensaries last year
and has almost 100 outlets, some approved, some waiting for development
permits and most running without any permission at all.

Toronto, on the other hand, raided dozens of dispensaries starting in May,
seizing hundreds of kilograms of marijuana and related products and
charging owners and employees with drug trafficking.

Police in Edmonton laid charges in 2015 after raiding a longtime medical
marijuana dispensary on 118 Avenue.

Pels, co-owner of Vancouver-based Green Room, says he wants to be
established in good locations when pot shops are allowed on Edmonton
streets, even if this takes another year.

The Old Strathcona site employs six people and has signed up about 1,000
members, he says.

He plans to open two more sites in Edmonton and two in Calgary by spring,
as well as six this year in other Canadian cities.

"The reason why we're pushing ahead is the municipalities have been
receptive to certain things," he says.

"It's all speculation at this point, but we're fairly confident Edmonton
and Calgary will lead the charge to regulate dispensaries."

However, city councillors say they don't want to jump into this field
before the federal government acts.

"He's asking the City of Edmonton to allow him to sell marijuana when the
feds haven't said it's legal? That's ridiculous," says Coun. Dave Loken,
chair of Reach Edmonton's marijuana committee.

"I think it's rather premature and very presumptuous of any group to think
we're going to cast a blind eye to that."

Councillors are waiting for a report in February on what planning,
licensing and other civic rules are in place to deal with dope once sales
are legalized.

Loken says his committee, which includes Epcor, the planning department,
police, the province and other organizations, told the pot task force
municipalities will need more support.

"Anybody who thinks they can open something up beforehand obviously would
be in violation (of the law)."

Coun. Scott McKeen, a member of the police commission, also wants to wait
for the law to change.

"How can we be fair so all the people who would love to be in the business
are treated equitably? Does this business get in because it's the first
out of the gate?" McKeen asked. "My preference would be for the first five
or 10 years that this be done in a tightly controlled way, perhaps through
government-run stores. Otherwise, it's just going to go crazy."

But Pels says he's working with city officials on a way to do things
properly. He expects Edmonton will put restrictions on pot shops similar
to those for liquor stores, which generally must be 500 metres apart and
at least 100 metres from schools.

"It's a gamble, but we're thinking with the way Edmonton has been
communicating with us, this will be in the very near future a dispensing
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