British Columbia hasn’t licensed any legal cannabis stores yet, but an Alberta-based startup wants to join others expecting to establish the legal retail market here.
The company is called Fire & Flower, and on Wednesday, just as federal legislation legalizing recreational weed was headed for royal assent, it announced its intention to seek at least 20 retail licences in this province.
Where and when stores will open, however, is still up in the air, according to CEO Trevor Fencott.
“It’s not entirely clear until British Columbia comes online with its application process,” Fencott said, “(and in municipalities), what the specific zoning requirements will be.”
Solicitor General Mike Farnworth had promised the province would launch an online registration process for seeking licenses to sell recreational cannabis by this spring. However, federal legislation legalizing recreational use of marijuana was delayed until this week, pushing the date for legal sales to Oct. 17.
No one from the province was available for comment Thursday, but in a statement Wednesday, Farnworth said ministries are focused on developing provincial regulations, policies and public education programs.
Liam Butler, who speaks for the Attorney General’s Ministry, said to expect an announcement today (today is Friday, June 22) with the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch on provincial licensing.
Fire & Flower has hired a commercial realtor, Cushman Wakefield, to help it find locations and has started discussions with municipalities in locations where it wants to set up. But until the province opens the licensing process, “we can’t invest too much capital,” Fencott said.
The company expects it to be a competitive landscape, already crowded with illegal dispensaries.
Provincial regulations don’t rule out licensing existing dispensaries, but operators will have to pass background checks and comply with municipal zoning and location rules.
Farnworth vowed an aggressive crackdown to close illegal dispensaries once legal sales are established, but some operators, such as Don Briere, head of the Weeds Glass and Gifts chain of dispensaries, have vowed to challenge those efforts in court.
Fencott said he’s fine with competition, so long as it is with outlets capable of operating within the legal, regulated regime so the budding industry doesn’t live up to the stereotypes associated with weed.
“Canada is not a country of stoners,” Fencott said.
Fire & Flower set down in Alberta because that province offered the clearest, most straightforward rules and regulations, Fencott said. It plans 37 stores in that province.
However, Fencott said B.C., with its global reputation related to marijuana, is a compelling place to expand.
Fire & Flower’s concept, Fencott added, is about creating a “community of interest,” around cannabis, with a strong educational component to its services.
“If we’re going to curate this almost overwhelming experience for consumers and help them navigate this newly legal product and how to incorporate into their lives, we have to be in B.C.,” Fencott said.