Banff begins to figure out cannabis policies ahead of legalization

Cannabis retailers are keen to open up shop in the mountain resort town of Banff, Alta. John Himpe / Global News

It’s no secret that some in Banff, Alta. enjoy getting a rocky mountain high right now — legal or not.

“There is cannabis in Banff today,” said Compass Clinics president Dave Martin to the knowing laughter of a packed Banff town council chambers on Monday. “I don’t think I’m going to surprise anybody by saying that”

With an existing market of cannabis users and a massive, international tourist base, the mountain resort community has come up on the radar of hopeful retailers looking to cash in once cannabis becomes legal.

“There’s going to continue to be interest in this region, in this market,” said Randall McKay, director of planning and development for the town.

READ MORE: How to buy weed in Canada when it’s legalized

But as Banff starts down the road of defining its own policies on cannabis, a delicate balancing act is required to ensure the town’s retail district doesn’t become a so-called “green mile.”

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“You know, we worry about that,” McKay said. “We will be thinking very carefully about spacial separation of these businesses within the core area of town.”

“There isn’t a lot of space left in Banff. It’s something that we’ve cautioned potential operators about.”

McKay said deciding where cannabis storefronts will go might not necessarily take the same approach the town has pursued with liquor stores. Previous town councils have issued a dictate to let the market decide on that product, leading to 12 storefronts inside the four kilometre square footprint of the town.

“I think in this case, we’re going to have to look at it differently,” McKay said.

READ MORE: Liquor Stores plan for Alberta retail pot outlets boosted by Aurora Cannabis investment

But before anything can be decided on where cannabis retailers will go and where cannabis can be used, the town has to start to build the foundation of its policy, establishing definitions for things like cannabis retail storefronts and cannabis-related businesses. Those are expected to be firmed up in the weeks to come.

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