Three pot stores get green light

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The number of cannabis retailers in Medicine Hat is set to double as provincial regulators have approved another batch of licences.

It brings the local number of outlets to six, including four on or near a six-block stretch of S. Railway Street.

The locations could be open in early May, about six months after the first stores were approved.

About 20 prospective operators have applied for local permits, but supply issues halted new provincial licences.

Many applicants have rented space since the summer, and have completed renovations and security upgrades that are a precondition of securing a licence.

After the wait, local owner of “the Leaf” is excited to get underway.

“It’s been stressful to have all this overhead, no income and no timeline on (application) approvals,” said Pam Carriere, a principal at the outlet at 699 Kingsway Ave.

That location is among 24 new licences released by the province.

“We all knew we were taking a risk … I feel really good, but still feel bad for those (applicants) who are waiting.”

Another new licence-holder, Hat Cannabis, Inc., will operate at 646 S. Railway, a former stereo shop, near the intersection with Kingsway Avenue.

Rebekka Leidl is part of a local ownership group that will operate Hat Cannabis. It incorporated one year ago and went through four potential locations before finding an amenable landlord and spot that fit with city zoning.

New licences also show the sector is concentrating somewhat in the centre of the city.

“It’s a problem with the zoning,” said Leidl. “There are five zones and only so many buildings that are appropriate.”

Local zoning regulating where cannabis stores could locate was approved last summer, including required distances from schools and health-care facilities, but with no restriction for distances from other such retailers.

An overlay map of allowable zones includes addresses on most major corridors, the downtown core and other substantial commercial areas.

Both business women predicted competition could be intense, but chalked it up to business in a new sector.

Two existing locations on the S. Railway were in operation on Oct. 16 – the day the prohibition on recreation marijuana-use was lifted.

Leidl says she and her partners were well advanced on store upgrades last fall, and they’ve been waiting patiently for the chance to open for business. She figures they could open with stock in mid-May.

“We were very close when they put the moratorium (on new licences) in last fall, and we were very disappointed,” said Leidl.

Westside Weed, an original entry into the marketplace, has been open for six months on S. Railway near the Allowance Avenue overpass.

Green Exchange sits closer to the city core on the 300 block of the S. Railway.

Waldo’s 420, located in the southwest industrial area, was also licensed and open for business last October.

Newly-approved “Green Light” is set to open in a storefront in a commercial strip on Box Springs Boulevard in the city’s northwest.

In the latest batch of licences, the total number of outlets in Alberta rose from 75 to 101. That increase includes a second store in Brooks and a seventh in Lethbridge.

Applications for store locations in Redcliff numbered two in early January, but their status is unknown.

Despite delays, Alberta leads the country in getting private cannabis outlets up and running.

The City of Toronto has one operating shop among five approved locations.

In Saskatchewan, 28 stores are operating in 16 municipalities, including Swift Current, but not yet Maple Creek, where a licence was awarded by the province last year.

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