Pubdate: Fri, 06 Oct 2017
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Gordon Kent
Page: A2


A dozen medical pot producers plan to start a chain of Alberta
marijuana stores if the provincial government allows private companies
to sell recreational weed next year.

The Canadian Cannabis Co-Op hopes to get in on the ground floor of
what's expected to be a billion dollar Alberta industry when the
federal government legalizes marijuana consumption July 1, 2018.

"We will build out a retail channel in Alberta and any other province
that is looking at including private sector retail and distribution in
their model," Darren Karasiuk, chair of the co-op working group, said

"We're anxious to get out in front of Albertans, to talk more about
our proposal, to communicate with the legislators and figure out how
we fit into this at whatever level works best in Alberta."

Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley released the province's proposed
framework for marijuana sales this week, saying she's looking for more
input on whether to set up government-owned and run stores, as planned
in Ontario, or licence and regulate private operators.

Public consultation is open until Oct. 27. The co-op has hired a
consultant to look at possibly opening 50 brick-and-mortar outlets if
private involvement is allowed, and would also like to see online
transactions, Karasiuk said.

This would mean spending tens of millions and setting up headquarters
in an undetermined Alberta location, but he couldn't provide details
until the government makes its final decision later this fall on how
it will proceed.

"I think we have a compelling proposition for the government. We would
take on the investment, no taxpayer dollars would be used, and we
would exist alongside other private models that are out there."

Alberta became the first province to privatize liquor sales in 1993,
although Ganley said marijuana will not be sold in the same place as
alcohol, tobacco or pharmaceuticals.

The co-op would feature cannabis from all members, providing exposure
for small craft producers as well as big companies, and draw on
everyone's experience in the therapeutic field, Karasiuk said.

The current members grow more than half of Canada's medical pot. None
own Alberta facilities, but the group would welcome any other
producers who want to join, said Karasiuk, vice-president of strategy
for Toronto-area cannabis firm Med Releaf.

Med Releaf now produces 9,800 kilograms of medical marijuana annually,
but intends to boost that to 35,000 kilograms per year by next summer,
he said.

"There's likely going to be a shortage of supply in the early days of
the recreational market in Canada. By coming together as a group, we
can effectively ensure there is a supply of regulated, safe cannabis."

The Alberta marijuana market is expected to be about 100 to 120 tonnes
per year with an approximate retail value of $1 billion to $1.2
billion, he said.
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