Matt Panelli, left, and Steven Bigg are the co-owners of Lacombe’s Merry Guanas. Panelli says he is frustrated by new regulations governing signage for recreational cannabis businesses. Photo by Black Press Media

Pot regulations around signage frustrating for Alberta cannabis retailers

There are five cannabis stores in Lacombe – a city of about 14,000 people.

That means promoting your business is important, says Matt Panelli, co-owner of Merry Guanas.

The store is located on 49-B Avenue, a “side street,” which means it would be useful to have a billboard or any type of sign that would direct customers to the store, he explained.

But that’s nearly impossible with new regulations imposed by Health Canada. The rules, which kicked in Oct. 17, require retailers to have billboards no larger than 300 square centimetres – about the size of a half page of printer paper.

The Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis agency is responsible for enforcing the regulations.

“That is tiny,” said Panelli.

The dimensions of any character, letter or number must be four centimetres or less, something Panelli is keeping in mind while trying to order custom-printed clothing items, such as T-shirts.

“Really, what harm is there by having it slightly larger? I’m just not sure.

“It’s a little bit of an overstep,” said the Lacombe business owner.

Panelli was a marketing expert for many years and feels that with the new rules, he cannot use important skills at his disposal, which he finds frustrating.

The rules dictate where he can advertise (where no minors are present) and what the advertisement states.

Storefront signs, which are controlled by Health Canada and the municipality the business is located in, do not have dimensional requirements, but are still restricted.

For example, Merry Guanas’s owners wanted to include the image of an iguana on the storefront sign, but weren’t able to do so because signs cannot have a real or fictitious person, animal or character on them.

The billboard-type signage rules are new. Some businesses had such signs since legalization began last year, but now they can no longer be used.

Derek Shields, co-owner of the Nisku Northern Lights Supply cannabis dispensary, said the business had billboards on the highway and advertisements on a company vehicle.

These advertisements were approved in the beginning, but the new rules make them a violation, and the business is looking at about a $60,000 expense.

“A lot of people are stuck now because they have to pay for a billboard they essentially cannot use,” Shields said, speaking for himself and businesses that are in the same situation.

Shields’ father, Clarence, is the founder of the Cannabis Retailer Association of Alberta, a newly formed group that is voicing these concerns.

Panelli does not see why the signage rules are so restrictive. He says he has spoken to a police officer in Lacombe about crime since legalization and whether police have seen any changes.

“They’ve told me they’ve seen absolutely nothing. They’ve seen no change whatsoever.”

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