Banff gets its first cannabis retail store

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If good things really do come to those who wait, Banff, Alberta, will be a very happy place this fall.

Almost a year after Canada legalized cannabis for recreational use, the town is finally getting its first retail stores. A small commercial district and strict regulations have resulted in the community lagging behind other areas in the province.

Cannabis storefronts are restricted from setting up shop on lucrative Banff Avenue and from having street-facing windows or being within 30 metres each another or a school. Just one of the five town-approved retailers — Spiritleaf Banff — has managed to satisfy all the criteria and is set to open its doors on Oct. 1.

“It’s all just been a process,” said Jeff Hines, owner of Spiritleaf. “It’s all been an arduous process.”

Hines has poured a lot of money into the operation, but with Banff drawing 4.2 million tourists annually, he’s betting on a big payday. “I absolutely think that cannabis tourism is going to be a thing,” Hines said.

He plans on making it an even bigger thing by taking on his town’s biggest remaining hurdle — the current ban on public consumption. “Hopefully, we can be early adopters and early stakeholders and be involved,” Hines said.

Banff’s location within a national park means retail operators are subject to tricky municipal, provincial and federal restrictions. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. “We’re writing the rules as we go here,” Hines said.

Other retailers are currently preparing to follow Spiritleaf, with new stores set to open in early 2020.

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