Pubdate: Fri, 17 Nov 2017
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network
Author: Reid Southwick
Page: A1


Private operators still await rules for selling legal weed starting
July 1

Alberta won't limit the number of private cannabis stores once retail
sales are legalized next July, according to new details released
Thursday by the NDP government.

The province confirmed that private retailers will sell legal weed
from brick-and-mortar storefronts, instead of government-run outlets
chosen by several other provinces, including Ontario and Quebec.

Online sales in Alberta, however, will be available through a publicly
run system, which is meant to ensure residents can tell the difference
between legal and illicit retailers on the internet.

Fred Pels, chief executive of a company seeking to open as many as
seven stores in Calgary by July, said the details released so far are
a "good start" in Alberta's sprint to roll out an entirely new retail
market in time for Canada Day.

"We're eager to get to work," said Pels, of B.C-based Green Room,
which runs dispensaries in Vancouver and Nelson, B.C., with cannabis
information centres in Calgary and Edmonton that it hopes to convert
into retail stores.

The province's approach also received endorsements from the Alberta
Chambers of Commerce and 420 Clinic, another medical pot information
centre that wants to get into the retail business.

Similarly, the Canadian Cannabis Chamber, a membership-driven industry
group, backed the province's proposals, though it preferred a
privately run online system. In selecting its model, the NDP
government rejected arguments from the Alberta Federation of Labour,
which said a publicly run retail network is the best model to create
good jobs and reap the best financial returns for the province.

While other provinces have limited the number of physical stores
licensed to sell cannabis - Quebec will start with 15 locations, while
Ontario will initially have 40 - Alberta will set no threshold.

But an agency overseeing distribution will control the pace of new
licences issued to retailers.

The province had already tapped the Alberta Gaming and Liquor
Commission to buy all of the province's legal weed from federally
licensed growers and distribute it to retailers.

At least initially, there may be some restrictions on the number of
stores a single retailer can open, to prevent large, wealthy
corporations from cornering the market.

Cannabis will be sold in privately run, specialized stores not
involved with retailing alcohol, tobacco or pharmaceuticals. Any
existing retailers that want to get into cannabis must set up a
separate business with distinct storefronts.

Federally licensed producers will be allowed to open stores -
Alberta's Aurora Cannabis, one of the country's largest growers, may
enter the retail game - but there is a catch. Producers would have to
sell their legal weed to the liquor commission as a wholesaler - and
then buy it back from the agency, potentially with a markup.

With legalization a little more than seven months away, the province
said it has not yet identified the steps retailers must take to secure
the necessary licences and satisfy all requirements to start selling
pot on Canada Day.

Those rules are expected to be ironed out early next

Pels hopes the Green Room's existing information centres in downtown
Calgary and Bankview, along with five more on the horizon, will
satisfy any geographic requirements from the province and city for
retail stores, such as potential setbacks.

The idea is the company will already have brick-and-mortar locations
that could be modified to meet any rules and regulations for private
stores - as long as they're in acceptable locations.

"We hope to have the privilege of opening first," he

Since June, 150 people have contacted Calgary's city hall seeking
answers about the future cannabis market, with more than 20
applications for medical marijuana counselling services.

Matt Zabloski, who is leading city hall's legalization efforts, said
local officials had expected to have rules in place to accommodate pot
business licences by as early as the spring, but now he wonders if the
province will take the lead on zoning and related regulations.

"One thing that will be nice to hear is what their plans are as far as
separation distances and the zoning requirements that they alluded to
today," Zabloski told reporters.

The city is seeking feedback from local citizens on cannabis
legalization, starting Monday, "to ensure … local regulations protect
the safety, well being and quality of life for all Calgarians," says
an advertisement.

Canada will become the first G7 nation to legalize cannabis sales,
with the purpose of eliminating the black market, often run by
organized crime, and keeping pot out of the hands of children, among
other goals.

To this end, the province set the legal age of consuming cannabis at
18, the same threshold for alcohol and tobacco use in Alberta. Youths
caught with cannabis could face tickets and have their parents
notified, or could be charged criminally, depending on how much
they're carrying.

One key measure widely considered essential to stamping out the
criminal element in pot sales is price. The cost of a dime bag from
legal retailers must be competitive with illicit dial-a-dope rates.

But governments are still wrangling over how they will tax pot and
share the spoils.
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