Pubdate: Tue, 24 Oct 2017
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network
Author: James Wood
Page: A6


The Alberta Party says a network of publicly owned cannabis stores
will cost at least $168 million, a price it says is too steep to pay
when the private sector is lined up to serve the market when
recreational marijuana is legalized next year.

The NDP government has mandated that legal weed be sold in stand-alone
stores but has not yet decided whether to set up government-owned and
operated stores or allow private retailers.

In a news release Monday, Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark pegged the
cost of a public system at $168.4 million.

That figure is based on an estimate of 372 stores in the province,
matching the number of stores per capita in Colorado, where marijuana
has been legal since 2014.

Based on estimations of demand for legal pot, the Alberta Party
figures each store would have upfront capital and inventory costs of

In an interview, Clark said he's being "very conservative" in his
estimates but the price is too high considering private liquor stores
have shown their value in Alberta.

"The idea the government would establish a new bureaucracy to do
something the private sector is already doing well is ridiculous," he

"To even consider creating government stores, it makes no sense. It
makes no financial sense, it doesn't help keep product out of the
hands of teenagers and I think most importantly, it undercuts Alberta

"Cannabis legalization is a massive economic opportunity for Alberta,"
he added.

Government consultations are to run until Oct. 27, with the province
expected to make a decision on public versus private stores during the
fall sitting of the legislature, which starts next week and runs into

The Notley government said a private retail system for cannabis likely
would be more flexible in meeting consumer demand and would provide
more economic opportunities for small business.

On the other hand, the province said government-owned stores would
provide a greater level of oversight of marijuana being bought and
sold and would likely generate more government revenue in the long
run. A public system would require significant upfront costs for the
cash-strapped government, however, potentially putting taxpayer
dollars at risk.

On the weekend, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees passed a
resolution backing government-run stores.

Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley, who is in charge of the cannabis
file for the NDP, was not available for an interview and her office
would not comment on Clark's cost calculations.

"We are still awaiting information from the federal government about
taxation and costs, and it would be premature to release any kind of
cost estimates," said a statement from Ganley's press secretary,
Veronica Jubinville.

The federal government has set July 1, 2018, as the date for
legalization but has left many of the regulatory and administrative
details to the provinces.
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