Pubdate: Fri, 17 Nov 2017
Source: Calgary Sun, The (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 The Calgary Sun
Author: Reid Southwick
Page: A5


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 it will look to private retailers to sell
legal weed from brick-and-mortar storefronts, instead of
government-run outlets chosen by several other provinces, such as
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 thus far, though it would have
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

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, wellbeing and quality of life for all Calgarians,"
says an advertisement.

Online sales are meant to ensure that legal weed is available to all
Canadians, even if physical stores are not yet set up in their cities
or neighbourhoods. But the province has not identified the technology
it will adopt for online sales to ensure those who order and receive
the products are at least 18, nor has the government released any
details on how the online system will work.

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.

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. Until those disputes are resolved, it's unclear how
low prices could go to compete with illicit dealers.

- - with files from Yolande Cole
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