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87 applications received so far for Alberta cannabis retail stores

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Editor’s note: This story originally said 91 applications had been received by the AGLC. It has been updated with the correct number – 87. 

The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) has received 87 applications so far for retail cannabis stores across the province. The application process launched on March 6.  There is no deadline for submissions.

In the Edmonton region, 40 applications have been filed with 30 of those inside the city itself. Five applications have been received for the bedroom community of St. Albert.

In the Calgary region, 22 applications have been received with 15 of those inside the city.

Among Alberta’s other cities, seven applications have been filed for stores in Red Deer, four for stores in Fort McMurray and three applications have been filed in Lethbridge.

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MAP: The AGLC has received 87 applications so far for cannabis retail outlets in Alberta. See where the proposed locations are.

“I think a lot of people are speculating the number [of applications] is low, but I am not surprised,” said Deepak Anand, vice president of government relations for Cannabis Compliance Inc., a consultancy which works with prospective licensed producers and retailers on navigating the regulatory process surrounding cannabis in Canada.

“We deal with a number of people on a day-to-day basis that want to make applications, and the biggest challenges they’ve run into [are] with municipal zoning.”

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Anand said finding real estate has been especially challenging for those looking to establish storefronts in Alberta, in part because not all communities are at the same point in crafting legislation to allow for cannabis retail.

“The City of Calgary has made some good strides in making amendments to municipal legislation and zoning,” he said. “Not a lot of the other municipalities and cities have done that.”

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In Calgary, city council is considering a proposal which would require cannabis stores to be separated by at least 300 metres. They’re also considering a 150-metre setback from schools and a 100-metre buffer from hospitals. The city is proposing that cannabis stores not be located adjacent or connected to a liquor store.

In Edmonton, city council is considering making sure retailers are less than 200 metres from any other cannabis shop, libraries and schools. They are also proposing 100-metre separation from major and minor alcohol sales stores, rec centres and city parks.

“The AGLC has not mandated a signed leased in terms of a must-do to submit your application,” Anand said. “But they will require that before your application is approved.”

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Anand said getting the right space from the right landlord is also proving to be a road bump for some looking to get into the market, which could be keeping the number of applications low.

“It’s a significant challenge trying to get landlords to understand what the activity is, helping them understand what the AGLC has put into place in terms of a regulated system. I think there certainly is a huge stigma on cannabis in general.”

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While no distinct “green mile” of cannabis retailers shows up when mapping the applications received so far from Alberta’s two major cities, there is a concentration of prospective retailers in Calgary’s northeast quadrant while three of the Edmonton applications are along 82 Avenue.

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Notably absent on the list of 91 applications to the AGLC are the names of some of the larger players in the cannabis industry, like Aurora-backed Liquor Stores NA. Anand said for bigger companies, strategic investments made early on mean they might be in less of a hurry to put in their paperwork.

“I think that a lot of people know there is going to be room in the market,” he said. “The AGLC has always said there’s no rush here. This is only them opening applications, it’s not necessarily when they’re going to close them.”

Objections to applications can be filed with the commission within 21 days of a submission being posted. However, the number of stores, the location and space between stores, retail competition, community image and property values are factors which the AGLC does not take into account. Those matters are the responsibility of municipalities.

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