Toronto cannabis retailer Fire & Flower relocated its headquarters to Edmonton in February. Fire & Flower has applied for 37 cannabis store licences in Alberta, the maximum currently allowed, and plans to open stores in every province where private shops are permitted.
Moving to the provincial capital positioned Fire & Flower in “one of the municipalities that was the furthest ahead in the province that was furthest ahead,” said Nathan Mison, Fire & Flower’s vice-president of government and stakeholder relations.
Mack Andrews, vice-president of the Alberta Cannabis Collective, thinks Alberta is positioned to be a leader within Canada’s retail cannabis market — and beyond. “What I really see is Alberta setting a worldwide standard that could be adopted in other jurisdictions as they legalize in the future,” he said.
The Alberta Cannabis Collective plans to represent cannabis retailers across Alberta who go beyond industry base requirements and meet the collective’s higher safety standards. The new organization is also partnering with other businesses, like law firm Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP, to offer services to its future members.
Mr. Andrews said Alberta stands out because of its private model, combined with an available workforce. “With the way the oil and gas industry has gone over the past couple of years, there’s a lot of really talented, educated people in Alberta who are looking to transition or are already out of that industry and looking for new things,” he said.
In fact, Mr. Andrews himself previously worked in the oil and gas sector as a chemical engineer before becoming an entrepreneur. He has applied to open a retail cannabis store in Calgary.
As legalization looms, other local entrepreneurs are looking to grow their businesses. Jeff Mooij is president of 420 Clinic, the first licensed medical cannabis clinic in Calgary, which also operates a Lethbridge location.
He plans to sell recreational cannabis throughout Alberta under the name 420 Premium Market, and has applied for more than 20 retail licences. Mr. Mooij has also been involved in various government consultations around legalized marijuana.
“We really worked hard to try and educate not just city council members in the city of Calgary, but the province too, on making sure that we do this properly, that we’re not punishing our industry for [people’s] own stigma and beliefs. And everybody inherently has them, because this has been illegal for so long,” he said.
With that work done, Mr. Mooij is now gearing up for what could be a very rapid expansion. “It’s complete insanity when I look at the fact there’s a possibility within four months, we might have increased our staff level by 400 people,” he said.
Lindsay Blackett, president of the Canadian Cannabis Chamber, thinks the Alberta government has done a good job of setting up a regulatory framework for legal cannabis that gives certainty to would-be businesses.
A former Alberta culture minister, Mr. Blackett isn’t the only former politician involved in the new national organization, based in Calgary. Jonathan Denis, Alberta’s former minister of justice and solicitor-general, is also on the chamber’s team.
Mr. Blackett sees plenty of opportunities for businesses in Alberta’s marijuana market, including in retail, production, and — when legalized — edible products. Alberta’s low tax regime and cost of electricity are particularly attractive to potential producers, Mr. Blackett said. Health Canada has issued licences for six cannabis producers in Alberta, compared to 57 in Ontario.
“Right now there’s a lot of excitement around the retail applications,” Mr. Blackett said. “But we think that the best is yet to come in Alberta.”
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