Applications for nearly 700 cannabis stores are in the pipeline across the province, with Calgary rolling up far more of that retail bidding than Edmonton.
Those high numbers could mean many stores will open later than this fall due to regulatory delays, said one retailer.
As of Tuesday morning, the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission tallied 684 requests for individual retail locations that have been physically received, with some applicants making multiple bids, said agency spokeswoman Heather Holmen.
While that number isn’t considerably greater than anticipated, “truthfully, the numbers have been a challenge,” she said.
And because the province hasn’t set a limit on the number of applicants, just as it doesn’t for those seeking liquor retail licences, the number of prospective cannabis outlets will increase, said Holmen.
“Earlier in the process, we saw more of an influx but it’s fairly steady . . . we’ll likely get some more in the next week,” she said.
In Calgary, Holmen said 216 applications have been received by the AGLC compared with 141 in Edmonton, part of the process leading up to recreational marijuana legalization that takes effect Oct. 17.
The city of Calgary on Tuesday listed 241 applications, which began arriving in late April.
It’ll be up to municipalities and market realities to set limits on local numbers, just as they do for liquor stores, which number about 1,500 provincewide, said Holmen.
Calgary has set a buffer distance of 300 metres between the stores and 150 metres from such amenities as schools, greater than the province’s suggestion of 100 metres for the latter.
“Municipal bylaws and zoning requirements may reduce some of those store numbers,” said Holmen, adding some of the stores should open Oct. 17.
A projected number of 250 stores in the first year of legalization — based on the number opened in Colorado in 2014 — is anything but firm and could be “450 licences or 150 licences,” she said.
Colorado, which was studied by Alberta for its similarities to the province, now hosts more than 500 recreational cannabis dispensaries.
Fred Pels, who plans to have at least three stores selling bud in Calgary, said the large number of retail hopefuls combined with considerable regulatory hoops could see many waiting well beyond Oct. 17 to open.
“People should put their helmets on because it’s going to be real tough for the next few weeks,” said Pels of The Green Room.
“But I don’t envy the city and the AGLC for what they’re having to do, and I hope they don’t rush it through.”
City of Calgary officials should be approving applications beginning July 30, said Matt Zabloski, who’s guiding the process for the city.
“A good number of applications should be ready to open Oct. 17,” he said.
“We don’t want to be an impediment to stores opening then.”
The number of applicants, he said, is at the higher end of expectations, but is manageable given the city initially expected a legalization date of July 1.
When prospective locations are clustered within 300 metres of each other and are of equal merit, the first to file will be chosen by the city, said Zabloski.
The province will operate online cannabis sales.
on Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn