Business will be budding for cannabis shops in St. Albert once recreational use of the drug is legalized.
The City of St. Albert economic development department said in an email it has received interest from 25 different stakeholders inside and outside of the community, although the city wouldn’t say whom to protect the privacy of potential applicants.
Liquor Stores N.A. Ltd., the company that owns Liquor Depot and Liquor Barn, has confirmed that it is among those who have expressed interest. There are currently two Liquor Depots in town.
“St. Albert is a great market for our business and we would like to have a cannabis store, at least one, in this initial year there if we’re able,” said James Burns, CEO of the company.
Burns said they’re still working on filling out applications for different places across the province. He added that the company is also waiting to see how regulations unfold federally, provincially and municipally.
The province is expecting 250 cannabis retail stores to open in the first year of legalization. The AGLC is currently receiving applications, but said it will take between two and four months before applicants hear whether or not they’ve been approved.
Burns said the Liquor Depot stores in St. Albert will likely not be converted into cannabis stores. Instead the company is looking to open a new location.
The biggest hurdle right now is knowing where to set up shop.
Guy Hebert, commercial real estate agent with Bermont Realty (1983) Ltd. in St. Albert, said he’s shown commercial properties to about a dozen retailers looking to open cannabis retail stores in the city.
“It’s kind of difficult at this point to say yes or no, simply because we don’t know what the regulations are going to be,” he said.
He said conversations are ongoing with the interested parties, but they won’t be able to proceed until they know what rules are set by the city.
The city's bylaw regulation around retail cannabis will determine how far away cannabis stores will need to be from schools, parks, health centres, liquor stores and other cannabis stores.
The city recently posted a cannabis legalization timeline on its website. If all goes well, in May council will be making amendments to business licensing and/or tobacco retail licensing bylaw.
Until then, retailers are playing the waiting game.
The Herb Clinic, St. Albert’s only open medical cannabis clinic to date, is currently in the application process with the AGLC. The clinic has plans on adding recreational cannabis to its roster.
“We want to be able to provide education as cannabis is a new product,” said Cole Pethybridge, co-owner of The Herb Clinic.
He said more information on what the clinic will look like will be released once he receives approval from the city and the AGLC.
NewLeaf Cannabis is another potential retailer looking at St. Albert. The Calgary-based company has plans to launch in July, which is when the federal government had initially planned to legalize recreational use of the drug.
Of NewLeaf Cannabis’ 22 anticipated locations across Alberta, St. Albert could be home to one of them.
“We’re waiting to understand the municipal bylaws come out,” said Angus Taylor, CAO of the company. “As soon as we have a bit more clarity on that, that will guide our interests.”
New medical clinicOn the medical side of cannabis in St. Albert, another cannabis clinic has plans to open in the city.
Harvest Medicine will be opening at the St. Albert Centre in May. The medical cannabis company currently has one clinic in Calgary.
“We’re very excited, it’s a very interesting market,” said Josh Bachynski, marketing director of Harvest Medicine.
He said the company would not be selling cannabis recreationally. Since medical cannabis is regulated at a federal level, patients will still get their medical cannabis delivered to their doorstep after recreational cannabis is legalized.
The clinic will have cannabis experts on staff to educate patients on what type of cannabis is best for their medical condition.