Banff's approved cannabis stores eye summer openings

Banff could have five cannabis stores opening by summer after town approvals, but there’s a bunch of restrictions and hurdles to make that a reality, one of the companies tells CBC News.

Town approves 5 stores with lots of restrictions, but provincial regulator still has to sign off

Westleaf plans to operate a cannabis retail store in the old Hoodoo Lounge space just off Banff Avenue. Prairie Records is expected to open this summer. (Google Maps, Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Banff could have five cannabis stores opening by summer after town approvals, but there's a bunch of restrictions and hurdles to make that a reality, one of the companies says.

Adam Coates of Calgary-based Westleaf told The Homestretch their retail offering, a cannabis-music hybrid called Prairie Records, will fill the old Hoodoo Lounge space just steps from Banff Avenue.

It's one of the five town-approved stores.

This interview has been edited and paraphrased for clarity and length. You can listen to the complete interview here.

Adam Coates is the chief commercial officer at Westleaf, which is based in Calgary. (Submitted by Adam Coates/Nathan Elson Photography)

Q: What are the restrictions of setting up a cannabis shop in Banff right now?

A: You need approval from Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) and the Town of Banff.

The town put in a number of zoning bylaws, restrictions on proximity to schools and other proposed cannabis stores, which is 30 metres.

There are other rules around where outward-facing windows of the business can be and some limitations related to Banff Avenue.

Q: What makes Banff an attractive market given those restrictions?

A: We found a really great location in the old Hoodoo Lounge nightclub space. It's a great size and location for our flagship cannabis store, Prairie Records.

The town of Banff is synonymous with culture and innovative thinking and a socialization experience of getting out into the wilderness. We love the parallels that we bring.

From a demographic perspective, there is a huge number of both Albertans and tourists who come to the town every year and it's a great opportunity to engage with them.

Q: What is the connection between cannabis and music?

A: Cannabis and music have been best friends for a long time. We put factors in play, like retail, brand growth and consumer education in an environment that elicits a sense of discovery.

We use record covers that, instead of having your favourite band or artist, they are going to have your next favourite brand and strain of cannabis. It allows us to bring education more to the forefront.

With tourism, while the town has a small official population, the effective population makes this an exciting opportunity for us.

Q: Is there a connection between cannabis and snowboard culture?

A: Banff is a part of the ski and snowboard culture, and cannabis is as well.

Obviously, it's not a good idea at all to consume cannabis and do an activity like that. Safe and responsible consumption is a huge part of our philosophy.

Q: Staffing can be a challenge in Banff. How will you manage that?

A: We are a year-round business and we're focusing on hiring locally, wherever we can.

Q: When do you hope to be up and running?

A: Our development permit was just approved. To get your actual licensing from AGLC, you have to fully build out your store, have it tested and make sure all the security requirements are in place. That's going to take some time.

Q: Any concerns about supply issues?

A: Supply is a topical issue. We hope to be in a better spot by the summer months, which is probably a realistic time-frame of when these stores are going to be able to open in Banff.

The AGLC won't issue any more licences until supply is in a place where it can supply a lot more retail stores.

With files from The Homestretch


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