Prospective pot shop owners camp out for days to apply for licensing in Red Deer

About a dozen prospective pot shop owners — some camped out since last week — lined up at city hall in Red Deer Tuesday morning to apply for a retail cannabis sales licence.

'We did have about three businesses lined up since Friday morning. We were not anticipating that part of it.'

The City of Red Deer has received 11 applications for cannabis retail licenses. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

About a dozen prospective pot shop owners — some camped out since last week — lined up at city hall in Red Deer Tuesday morning to apply for a retail cannabis sales licence.

The city estimates it will offer about 35 licences initially, due to bylaws and regulations surrounding spacing and location of pot shops. 

Red Deer is taking applications on a first come, first served basis, so some entrepreneurs lined up early to ensure their application was at the top of the pile.

"That was a bit of a surprise for us," said Erin Stuart, inspections and licensing manager with the City of Red Deer.

"We did have about three businesses lined up since Friday morning. We were not anticipating that part of it, but ... [of] those 11 applicants that submitted, we had 10 of them lined up this morning."

None of the 11 applications received Tuesday morning have been approved yet.

Development officers will review the applications for anything missing. Approvals could happen as soon as mid-August, Stuart said, and the city is trying to ensure everyone is set up by Oct. 17.

Applicants can renovate their proposed shop spaces in the meantime if they have a building permit, Stuart said, but it's at their own risk, as there's no guarantee their cannabis licence will be approved. 

In Red Deer, pot shops have to be at least 300 metres apart and cannot be close to schools or hospitals.

'A bit of a chicken and egg scenario'

Calgary-based 420 Premium Market was one of the applicants Tuesday morning. Ryan Kaye, vice-president of operations, said the company is trying to open 30 retail stores across the province, including two in Red Deer.

The application Tuesday morning was for a location on Golden West Avenue, in the city's north end.

A representative from the company drove up in the morning to submit the application, Kaye said. The company was asked by the city to confirm whether they were going through the application process for a licence with the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission. 

It's hard to say how many stores will actually be open on Oct. 17. It's not going to be a lot, I don't think.- Ryan Kaye, 420 Premium Market

"There's a bit of a chicken and egg scenario that we've had to work through where some municipalities in Alberta have said we won't accept your application until you have your AGLC licence to sell cannabis," he said.

Kaye says the AGLC has had to confirm with some municipalities that obtaining its licence is one of the last steps in opening a store, not the first — similar to a restaurant obtaining its liquor licence days before opening, he added.

In some cities, like Calgary, development permits won't be posted until August and approvals won't be given until September, leaving store owners very little time to build and get all inspections and permits before the legalization date.

Each municipality has its own rules about how and when it will provide retail cannabis store licences. Some municipalities in Alberta are still ironing out basic details.

"It's hard to say how many stores will actually be open on Oct. 17. It's not going to be a lot, I don't think," Kaye said.

"There'll certainly be some municipalities across Alberta in which I believe there will be no stores open [on] Day 1."