On a busy main street in Calgary’s Beltline neighbourhood, green medical crosses are emblazoned on the windows of a shop in an upscale strip mall.
Among the cafes, restaurants, and big-name retailers, a national chain of marijuana dispensaries has opened its first location in the city.
“We didn’t want to be pushed to the shadows,” said Frederick Pels, president and CEO of The Green Room, when asked about the storefront’s location.
“We didn’t want to be in the pawn-store-liquor-shop districts of cities. We picked it deliberately because we’re fighting a stigma.”
The Green Room already operates marijuana dispensaries in Vancouver, Toronto, and Nelson, B.C., as well as a storefront in Pels’ hometown of Edmonton.
Like the Edmonton location, the Calgary shop will not be selling marijuana products — at least, not yet.
“Right now, we’re opening as an information centre. It’s to allow people to get access to information and see how else cannabis can help them,” Pels said.
Pels said education and clarifying misinformation about cannabis is the key behind the company’s foray into the Calgary market prior to legalization.
“The reason behind it wasn’t a personal advantage; it was to show the city (and) the citizens what legalization could and should look like, at least from my point of view.
“This is a good way to showcase what we can do and what the industry could look like once legalization happens in Calgary.”
Despite the educational nature of the store’s opening offerings, Pels hopes once legalization becomes the law of the land, this location will also be able to become a dispensary.
“People come in, they get educated, they become a member of The Green Room (and) then they’re able to access any of our other dispensing locations,” he said. “Then they’re ahead of the curve when we do have product on-site for sale.”
The location of the shop — previously a restaurant — underwent a redevelopment permitting process through the City of Calgary. Pels said there was no pushback.
“The community seemed to support it,” he said. “The people who’ve been walking by have just been delighted that something like this is finally here.”
If all goes according to plan, the Beltline won’t be the only neighbourhood where the company sets up shop. Pels hopes to open at least two more Calgary locations in the next six months.