A Central Alberta cannabis expert favours a private retail model

Alberta Cannabis Stakeholders group has members across the province

An Alberta cannabis stakeholder group, that includes a Central Alberta member, wants to see a privately-run cannabis retail model in the province.

Wendy Konschuk, executive director at MedCan Solutions Inc. based out of Sylvan Lake said a private model gives Albertans an opportunity to own businesses. She said it will promote small business start-ups and entrepreneurship in the province.

“They can become owners and operators,” she said.

MedCan, a cannabis-based service company helps with patient advocacy, design and operation and compliance services.

The government of Alberta released a draft Alberta cannabis framework but the province hasn’t made any decisions on a private or a public model to sell cannabis once it’s legal in July 2018.

She said legalization of cannabis is an opportunity for the province to diversify — something we all need since the downturn in the economy.

Konschuk is a member of the Alberta Cannabis Stakeholders group that consists of about 20 cannabis related small business owners across the province.

She said the government needs to set standards like in the case of alcohol. For example, at the local level, municipalities often have legislation that mandate the proximity of liquor stores from schools.

“I think for retail, for recreational [purposes], the opportunities for entrepreneurship [in the cannabis industry] are huge,” she said.

The Ontario cannabis retail model — a province that favours a public retail model — has announced between 80 to 150 cannabis stores throughout the province.

“That, to me is going to restrict access which could potentially mean the black market could flourish,” she said.

Jason Kujath, Alberta Cannabis Stakeholders group spokesperson, said the costs for a public model for the province would be high and the money could be spent elsewhere — where it’s needed more.

Kujath, a former tax lawyer, based in Calgary, said the money could be used to make upgrades at the Red Deer Hospital, for example.

Kujath traded his former career to become the co-founder and president of Fifty First Parallel, an Alberta based company to become a licensed producer of cannabis.

Konschuk echoed Kujath’s thoughts. She said Sylvan Lake is in need of a new high school and an emergency care centre and the province could look at funding those projects instead.

Kujath said the “LCBO” model works for Ontario but for Alberta, a publicly-run cannabis retail model is reinventing the wheel which would come at a high cost.

Comparing Alberta’s AGLC and Ontario’s LCBO agencies, Kujath said the AGLC is an administrative oversight body, and not a retailer, unlike the LCBO.

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