Patience a necessity for would-be Alberta cannabis retailers waiting on marijuana legalization

The Green Room Society president and CEO Frederick Pels stands outside a newly opened location in Calgary's Beltline neighbourhood.
The Green Room Society president and CEO Frederick Pels outside a location in Calgary's Beltline neighbourhood. John Himpe / News Talk 770

When Frederick Pels opened the doors to the Calgary location of his dispensary chain The Green Room, he had an eye on the long game — at some point, hoping to go from dispensing information and advice to actually selling cannabis products.

“The thinking behind the information centres was to make sure that decision-makers knew there were willing and responsible, reliable private companies willing to show them that we exist,” Pels said. “Hopefully that had something to do with their decision.”

“Our hopes by opening up and showing them what we thought retail should look like definitely paved some way for private retail.”

READ MORE: The Green Room, national marijuana dispensary chain, opens first Calgary location

Now with a plan from the Alberta government to allow private business owners to run cannabis specialty shops, a new waiting game begins for Pels and others hoping to capitalize on the end of marijuana prohibition.

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The provincial government said Thursday it intends to “strictly regulate” cannabis retailers including establishing rules for hours of operation, store locations, age of staff, staff training, and background checks for store owners. However, the criteria to license private shops won’t be developed until the new year.

READ MORE: Alberta introducing rules to align with federal cannabis legalization plan

“We understand that it’s the first time the government as a whole has attempted a path to legalization so we’re patient,” Pels said.

“I think they’re as prepared as they can be given the timeline, but there’s gonna be some speed bumps. I anticipate the government learning quickly about shortfalls of production as well as accessibility to the current range of products that are available to recreational and medicinal users.”

Pels said a key to curbing the black market will be ensuring that discerning cannabis consumers will have the ability to get their hands on products they’ve become accustomed to procuring.

Watch: City of Calgary responds to Alberta marijuana legislation

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City of Calgary responds to Alberta marijuana legislation – Nov 16, 2017

“Our client list is used to a certain type of product, a certain calibre, and certain strains,” Pels said. “Given that everybody’s cannabinoid receptors are different there are certain strains that people seek out.”

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“With lack of those strains being on the shelves, those customers are now alienated and almost left with only the option of going to the black market. But [we’re] hoping this step forward leads to more steps forward allowing access to the products that people are used to getting currently.”

READ MORE: Alberta’s proposed cannabis legislation includes mix of private and public sales

Pels had praise for the Alberta government’s plan to allow private stores and is optimistic about the road ahead.

“Hopefully they’re going to look at it as how to make this industry more successful,” Pels said. “I have faith that they’ll be able to see that.”

“Competition is healthy.”