Calgary garden centres want a bigger piece of the pot pie

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City garden centres gearing up to serve a legal cannabis home growing boom say they want to supply a lot more than lights and fertilizer.

Some of them say they’re being frozen out of the sale of marijuana seedlings — or clones — and seeds as cannabis legalization approaches, presumably this summer.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to sell seedlings just like we do tomato plants, but right now we’re shut out,” said Harington Telford, vice-president of marketing for Greengate Garden Centres.

“That’s how I make money — selling plants, whether they’re peonies or cannabis plants.”

For now, Telford’s business has been stocking other products such as LED lights and fertilizers favoured by cannabis green thumbers who’ve been making inquiries, he said.

“We’ve been following it pretty closely, because we have to think about it.”

But Telford said he resents revenue on the home-grown side of the legalization gold rush confined to what he calls “the billionaires” or major cannabis growers who have set up massive grow operations, some of them in Alberta.

Across town at Blue Grass Garden Centre, marketing manager Lisa Silva said commercial greenhouses are an obvious outlet for legalized clones and seeds.

“Why wouldn’t we? It’s capturing part of a market that everyone’s into,” she said.

“It’d be a very easy crop to sell … it’s another revenue stream.”

Blue Grass, she said, had been seeking permission to sell clones and seeds for licensed medicinal cannabis home growers for years, but to no avail.

But federal regulations, she said “are trying to control who the growers are.”

Since pot prohibition’s end was announced by Ottawa last year, customer interest in grow-your-own has soared, said Silva.

“It’s always been there, but with the news it’s becoming legal, a lot of people are inquiring,” she said.

Under federal legislation, a household will be to legally cultivate a maximum of four plants. 

The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) said it won’t initially be providing seedlings to retailers or the public, but will supply seeds online through private retail and online.

“Seeds and clones will only be purchased through federally licensed producers,” said AGLC spokeswoman Heather Holmen in a statement.

“Greenhouses and garden centres would need to be licensed through the federal government as this is considered production.”

One of those federally-licensed growing giants, Aurora Cannabis, is poised to deliver through online orders seedlings to individual consumers with a unique mail clone transporter, said spokesman Cam Battley.

But while there’ll be a definite green thumb sector — some of it passionate — it’ll likely play a small role compared to sales of finished product, he said.

“It’ll be a segment of the market but will it be huge? Probably not,” said Battley.

As for garden centres selling pot clones alongside petunias, he counselled patience.

“We’re going from absolute criminal prohibition and taking steps to rationality — we’ll get there,” said Battley.

Both his company and Ontario-based Grobo are marketing sealed cannabis growing boxes that filter out odour and make cultivation predictable.

Grobo’s Bjorn Dawson said sales of their boxes have been brisk in U.S. states that have already ended cannabis prohibition, which bodes well for their Canadian fortunes that have already picked up with impending legalization.

“While Ontario is our home and biggest market in Canada, Alberta is third after B.C. in sales for us,” said Dawson.

“Other provinces are really far behind.”

Spruce It Up Garden Centre is gearing up to sell cannabis gardening gear to a burgeoning clientele that’ll nonetheless be limited in scope, said owner Meryl Coombs.

 But he said such businesses like his will likely never sell pot seedlings, 

“Seeds I see being something for us, but there’ll probably be a pretty tight rein on the seedlings,” he said.

“But if it became available for garden centres to do, I’d be there.”

In a statement, Health Canada spokesman Andre Gagnon didn’t refer to recreational pot permits but said there was no limit to the number of medicinal production licences potentially available, adding 104 have been issued.

The ministry’s website states nurseries “would not be able to sell directly to the public or to federally-licensed or provincially- or territorially-authorized sellers.”

On Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn





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