Pubdate: Fri, 05 Jan 2018
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2018 Postmedia Network
Author: Bill Kaufmann
Page: A1


At least 200 potential marijuana retailers have expressed interest in
setting up shop in Calgary, says the city official responsible for
planning for the impending legalization of recreational cannabis.

Matt Zabloski said retail expectations could be getting out of hand,
depending on provincial directives on how such shops will be located
and regulated - guidelines that should be provided next month.

"There are a lot of people putting a lot of money into this now and
there are no guarantees," said Zabloski, who's working with as many as
17 city business units to prepare for legalization, expected to take
effect this summer.

"Anybody investing in this, it's something I wouldn't necessarily be
doing at this point . . . but things have definitely ramped up in the
course of the past few months."

His comments come after one medical marijuana retailer, who hopes to
get into the Calgary recreational cannabis market, warned of a
reckless rush to set up shop in the city, some of that driven by
franchise sales.

Zabloski said there was also a surge last year in the number of people
seeking applications to open medical cannabis consulting shops that
already exist in the city, with some under the false belief it would
smooth the way to sell pot.

"From June to mid-November, there'd been over 20 applications, and up
to June there'd been four," he said.

"Some think it'll give them a foot in the door but we're saying, 'it's
not going to give you a leg up, you shouldn't expect it'll roll over
to cannabis retail stores.' "

Medical cannabis stores in several B.C. jurisdictions, such as Nelson
and Vancouver, sell marijuana over the counter, but no such shops
exist in Alberta.

The CEO of a Calgary company, Spiritleaf, said his firm has sold 40
franchises for Calgary, with the possibility of granting more, while
some city head shop operators also hope to cash in on selling bud.
Spiritleaf's Darren Bondar said they're well aware of the business
uncertainties and will tailor their approach as regulations are rolled

"There's for sure an element of risk ... there's an excitement. It's a
once-in-a-generation opportunity," he said.

Zabloski said it's possible the presence of liquor stores, which
number 447 in the city, could rule out cannabis shops in their
vicinity. Areas frequented by children might also be excluded.

Distance separation guidelines, which could leave some discretion with
municipalities, he said, are expected to come from the province next
month, go to the city's planning and urban development committee on
Feb. 21, and before city council in early April.

As for public consumption regulations, "the province seems to be
aligning it with tobacco rather than alcohol," said Zabloski.

City officials have consulted with counterparts in U.S. cities with a
few years' experience with marijuana legalization, much of which
suggests it can work fairly smoothly here, he said.

"Denver, specifically, seems to have a fairly good model and refined
it fairly well, and we hope to take some lessons from that, though
there are differences in our municipal laws," said Zabloski.

The city will likely begin accepting applications from prospective
cannabis retailers in April at the earliest, he added.

Meanwhile, a city online feedback survey on the local approach to
cannabis legalization received 13,400 responses between Nov. 20 and
Dec. 10, though Zabloski wouldn't say what the gist of those are,
pending a report to be released at a later date.

But he said a flood of phone calls and emails on the topic revealed
considerable reservations over the prospect of legally retailed pot.

"There's concern about certain parts of legalization. There's lots of
talk about impaired driving," said Zabloski.
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MAP posted-by: Matt