Cannabis store owners anxiously await arrival of cannabis

A cannabis retailer in Airdrie can't open its doors because it can't get any cannabis to sell.

They jumped through every hoop and still have no cannabis to sell

Strain Lane is a new cannabis retailer in Airdrie that can't open its doors, because of a cannabis supply shortage (Bria Guenther)

Legalizing cannabis might one day be a small business bonanza,  but at the moment for Airdrie cannabis retailer Grant Guenther, legal weed might be the biggest financial bust of them all.

Guenther took out a lease to open Strain Lane, a cannabis retailer in Airdrie. The only problem is, he can't get his hands on any cannabis — and the rent is due every month, whether he opens his doors (he hasn't yet) or not.

The AGLC suspended the granting of new licenses a couple of months ago due to a cannabis shortage.

"My wife and I have invested everything we have into this business," Guenther said Monday in an interview on the Calgary Eyeopener."And still nothing," he said. "No product for the shop."

    Work in progress

    Guenther's economically harrowing situation is an example of jumping in early to a new industry, where the the ground rules are a bit of a work-in-progress.

    "You have an application process, which they start taking applications in March [2018]," he said. "And part of that application process is that you need a lease or an offer to lease. So most of the land use bylaws and these new capacities were not written yet."

    Grant Guenther and Genny Guenther are the co-owners of Strain Lane, an Airdrie cannabis retailer (Bria Guenther)

    After taking out the lease, Guenther waited (and paid rent) until September, to discover whether or not the space he was renting would be municipally zoned to allow him to retail cannabis.

    In other words, the only way to get in early to legal weed was to make a play — and say a prayer, of sorts.

    Shallow end

    "What a lot of companies did was they put on massive deposits say $20, or $30,000 deposits to be able to walk away from their leases if they didn't get approved," he said.

    "In our case we don't have that sort of funds, so we decided to dive into the shallow end here and see see if we're going to make it," he added.

    Now, Guenther and his wife find themselves trapped in a bit of a vise, with the lease on one shoulder, and the uncertainty of when they will be able to obtain cannabis on the other.

    (On the AGLC website, under 'Commonly Asked Questions', the response to the question "Will there be enough cannabis to supply the Alberta retail market?", the answer supplied is, "AGLC is in the process of securing product for the province of Alberta.")

    Part of the challenge facing Guenther is that the municipality of Airdrie, which has no business taxes, has no real incentive to facilitate the cannabis industry, because there's no money in it for them.

    "They eventually did push the ball forward but it wasn't until last November 27 when they issued building permits to people," he said.

    When host David Gray described the cannabis retail industry as a contest pitting big, well-financed corporate fishes against small, mom-and-pop sized fishes, Guenther agreed.

    So how does a little fish survive in a business swimming with well-heeled big fish?

    "I'll go as far as I can. Until our money runs out," he said.

    "We need to to find people that are interested in getting involved to either eventually just let this business go and sell it — or to bring people on so that we can last like the big fish."

    WIth files from the Calgary Eyeopener