With marijuana legalization looming, Edmonton is opening up its doors to businesses and inquiries alike — from local establishments to established entrerprises.
Edmonton officials have passed multiple bylaws ahead of the federal government's 2018 target of legalization, including bylaws that prevent existing bars and cannabis paraphernalia stores from transitioning into marijuana lounges.
But Colton Kirsop from the city said that hasn't stopped citizens and businesses from making inquiries and applying to open marijuana-related businesses, including cannabis lounges and production facilities.
"We have heard from a number of citizens and businesses that would like to know more about [marijuana-related businesses]," Kirsop told CBC News.
He said there are "upward of 20 contacts that are interested in cannabis lounges or cannabis storefronts," and three permits for commercial licence production have already been issued.
Canopy Growth, Canada's largest publicly traded marijuana company, is one outfit looking to grow in Edmonton. In June, they announced a 160,000-square-foot growing operation in the Morris Industrial Park in the southeast end of the city.
"Alberta is a good place to do business," Mark Zekulin, president of Canopy Growth, told CBC News. "[Edmonton] is certainly well positioned to serve a bunch of areas of the distribution locations."
Canopy Growth supplies medical marijuana products to Canadians across the country, and Zekulin said building a growth facility in Edmonton will make it easier to ship product across western Canada.
The company plans to be up and running "as soon as humanly possible," but still have some hurdles to clear, including securing a license from Health Canada. But with their track record of successful growing operations elsewhere in the country, Zekulin said that will likely not be an issue.
The facility, Zekulin said, will be a huge boost to the local economy, estimating it will create up to 100 jobs. "A facility of this size, with the type of work we do, you're talking tens of millions of dollars of investment," he said.
And licensed medical marijuana growers aren't the only type of cannabis business looking to cash in.
While most prospective cannabis-related business owners look to sell cannabis or products to use it, Matt Durrant took a different approach: he wants to show people how to grow it.
Under the federal legislation, the Liberal government is expected to allow cannabis users to grow four plants per household.
Durrant is the operations manager for MediGrow, which currently helps medical marijuana patients cultivate in their own home. MediGrow sells equipment used to grow medical marijuana to its customers — and will also install the equipment, provide nutrients and solutions as well as ongoing support.
"People wanted to grow their own medicine," Durrant told CBC News. "We really saw a void in that market."
Now, with legalization on the horizon, he's preparing to show anyone who wants to grow cannabis in their home his best practices.
"We're anticipating the recreational market," Durrant said. He said the prices from licensed producers (LPs) are around $10 a gram, which he thinks is too high.
He said the systems he sells — which run from $2,200 to $6,000 — can yield prices of 50 cents per gram.
"We are confident in some of our bigger units that they can pay themselves off… in one grow, and for sure in two," he said. The mid-sized unit, which Durrant said would be ideal for the four-plant count, costs $3,600 (plus an additional $210 for growing materials) and yields 448 grams each grow.
"We can help people grow this on their own, without having to buy from these LPs at these really, really high prices," he said.
The company has expanded to Red Deer and Calgary as well, and with upcoming legalization, Durrant expects a surge in business. They are hoping to expand to other provinces soon.
'We are wasting no time'
Like MediGrow, Zekulin expects Canopy Growth to have success in Edmonton — which could lead to other opportunities in Alberta.
"I wouldn't say we're done in Alberta," Zekulin hinted, though he wouldn't confirm where the company is looking to expand next. "We're certainly looking across the country."
But right now, not even two months after announcing a new facility, Zekulin said the company will focus efforts on getting the operation up and running in Edmonton.
"We are wasting no time," he said. "We are a big player in this space, in Canada and globally, and I think it's exciting for Edmonton that we want to be there."