Recreational cannabis retailer Green Town will likely be the only pot shop in Red Deer for a while.
The Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission has put on a temporary hold on issuing licences, which means no additional marijuana stores will enter the Alberta market, including Red Deer and Central Alberta.
Kaleigh Miller, AGLC’s senior communications officer, said the agency anticipates the temporary halt will last six to 18 months.
So far, AGLC has granted 65 licences across Alberta, and this number won’t go up until the temporary hold is lifted.
Miller said there are just over 700 applications in process with the AGLC. Each applicant was contacted to explain the delay, Miller said. The applicants were given the option of staying in the queue until the halt is lifted or to withdraw their application and receive a refund on the licensing fee – roughly $4,000.
Clarity Cannabis in Red Deer is ready to open and has chosen to wait.
“We are ready to open, but cannot until the AGLC gives us the green light. We missed it by one day, as the AGLC announced a freeze on store openings,” Clarity’s Red Deer owner, Michael Forbes, said Tuesday.
He said the wait is understandable.
“The regulators are doing the best they can with what they have,” he said.
Stettler’s Fire & Flower opened its doors in November, around the same time as Red Deer’s Green Town.
The company has locations in Fort Saskatchewan, Hinton, Edmonton, St. Albert and Sherwood Park, and had plans to open a location in Red Deer at the end of November, which didn’t happen.
Fire & Flower’s Amy Stevens echoed Forbes’ sentiments. Stevens said the company has “every intention” to open and serve the city of Red Deer.
“We’ll still be in the queue for opening as AGLC works through their side of things. We are ready for AGLC’s green light and we’re happy to work through that with them and move through the process just like everybody else in the province right now,” she said.
The response and demand has been a positive one for the cannabis industry, she said.
“I don’t think anybody could’ve anticipated how excited and how busy the shops have been, so it’s something we’re understanding of,” she said.
The opening of the Stettler location has proved positive. Stevens said customers come not only from Stettler, but the surrounding area as well.
Despite the shortages of stock, the Stettler location still receives shipments, said Stevens.
“Certain strains we might be a little lower on some days than others, but in general, we’re still able to provide products that consumers are looking for,” she said, adding trained staff are able to suggest an alternative if a customer is after a particular product that isn’t available that day.
The AGLC’s decision was based on shortages of cannabis supply across Canada. Miller said the decision will protect current retailers.
“If we continue to license additional retailers, that small amount of supply (we have) would get thinner and thinner. So in an effort to help those who are currently in the business, and to not lead new applicants astray, the decision was made to halt issuing licences until the licensed producers are able to fulfill the supply contracts,” she said Tuesday.
The AGLC website indicates its has signed contracts with 15 licensed producers, including Aurora Cannabis Enterprises Inc. and Sundial Growers. The agency receives shipments from licensed producers, which then get posted at albertacannabis.org for consumers and retailers.
But the shortage means the organization is not receiving the agreed-upon amount of cannabis from all the producers.
“So until we’re at a spot where we’re receiving regular shipments, we won’t be issuing licences because we don’t want to give licences to retailer who can then open their doors, but then have nothing to supply, and they will just get themselves in financial issues, and that’s not the way we want people to start off in this industry,” said Miller.
Ten cannabis retail stores around Red Deer were approved by the city’s development officer in the summer. Applications approved included two in the downtown, two in the Pines neighbourhood with the rest scattered around the city.
On Tuesday Red Deer County’s municipal planning commission conditionally approved a third application for a cannabis retailer at Gasoline Alley.
Last September, the county approved two development permit applications for cannabis retail sales, both at nearby sites on Leva Avenue.