At least one Red Deer store hopes to sell cannabis out of its shop later this year.
Gord’s Smoke Shop, which has been in city since 1996, confirmed it will apply for a cannabis licence.
“Every day we’re asked if we’re going to be carrying,” said Andee Malyon, Gord’s owner. “We don’t know all the regulations yet, so we’re trying to sort all that out and figure out what will work for us.”
On Friday, the Government of Alberta announced it expects to issue 250 cannabis store licences in the first year of operation. The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission will begin accepting applications on March 6.
“It’s something we’ve been waiting and hoping we’d see in our lifetime,” said Malyon. But “I think there are way too many rules, regulations and hoops to jump through.”
The government also announced licensed stores will be allowed to be open from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. and must be 100 metres from schools and health care facilities.
Employees will have to get background checks and take a workshop to learn things such as how marijuana affects your health.
Malyon said one of her biggest concerns is if the store will be able to sell tobacco and cannabis.
“For years we’ve had products in the back that have been for tobacco use only, but now we’re being told we can’t have tobacco in the same store as cannabis, which makes no sense,” she said.
Malyon said she hopes to speak with city representatives about the legalization of cannabis.
“Red Deer could say, ‘No, we’re not selling it at all.’ We don’t know. We keep trying to find out information from city hall, but nobody knows anything yet,” she said.
Nicole Raffa, Gord’s Smoke Shop manager, said this is a great starting point for the government.
“I just hope the government listens to the people who have been in the industry for decades and not the people jumping in now,” said Raffa.
The background checks were a cause for concern for Raffa. She said it’s up to the stores to train and run a background check on employees, which could cost as much as $3,000.
If an employee has a possession charge, they can still sell cannabis, but if they have a trafficking charge, they cannot, Raffa added.
“Some people with trafficking charges are the activists who have been working for decades to bring these laws where they are. Those people aren’t going to be allowed to legitimize themselves in this industry and that’s not right,” she said.
The federal government aimed to make cannabis legal July 1, but the Senate is not expected to vote on the proposed law until June 7.