Days after the city began accepting development permits for retail cannabis stores, data shows more than 25 per cent of would-be dispensaries are wanting to open their doors in just a handful of Calgary communities.
More than 200 applications were submitted within 17 minutes of the permit office opening last Tuesday. Those numbers are expected to shoot up as retailers looking to break into what some in the growing industry have called the new wild west. By Thursday, the city had received 246 applications.
Despite the clustering of retail cannabis permits, Calgarians in those neighbourhoods don’t seem to mind the flood of applications coming into their communities.
The city’s numbers show more than 28 per cent of the applications have been made for locations in the Beltline, the Kensington area, and along 17th Avenue S.W.
On 17th Avenue S.W., more than a dozen permit applications are in the works between 14th Street and 4th Street S.W. alone. Some addresses have multiple applications from different companies, one of which has at least six.
South down 4th Street S.W., there at least another five possible stores between 17th Avenue and Elbow Drive.
Moving north to Kensington, a small strip of retail space is packed with permit applications. On 10th Street N.W., between Memorial Drive and 3rd Avenue N.W., there are seven locations with development permits in the works — that’s more than half a dozen shops in just under two blocks.
Kensington businesses neighbouring prospective of pot shops said they’re in favour of the retailers coming to their blocks.
One salon on 10 Street — Creations by Chelsey — has two applications just a few doors down on either side of the business. Owner Chelsey Popoff welcomes the idea of cannabis retailers in the neighbourhood.
“I have a lot of clients that smoke medically and all that kind of thing,” she said. Popoff hopes the retail stores will increase foot traffic and will mean more walk-in business.
“I don’t mind at all, it’s good for everybody,” she said. “I’d rather a world full of potheads than drunks, honestly.”
This all might seem like a cannabis consumer’s dream come true, but the concentration of potential pot pedlars in one area isn’t likely, said Coun. Druh Farrell.
While council has not yet laid out regulations on the maximum number of stores allowed in the city, changes to the land use bylaws on cannabis stores will end up determining how many stores end up opening for business, she said.
“Only a couple will likely get approved (in Kensington) because the separation rules and the proximity to liquor stores and the proximity to schools, for example.”
With the city’s 300-metre buffer zone between cannabis retailers, the odds of any one neighbourhood becoming overrun with cannabis stores is unlikely, Farrell said.
Calgary’s Beltline community has by and large the highest number development permit applications with at least 35 — or roughly 12 per cent of the city’s total — in the works as of Thursday.
Coun. Evan Wooley says he’s not surprised by the rush of applications for locations in the Beltline, adding residents are on board with legalization, even if city bylaws now restrict many Beltline residents from consuming legal cannabis in their rented homes.
“I have heard, honestly, zero calls of concern to my office and in all of my regular conversations,” he said of the retail outlets. “I literally have heard of nobody.”
He says people from all corners of the city to shop in Calgary’s largest neighbourhood, adding the competition will weed out “bad operators” and improve the customer retail experience.
“We want to have great businesses that support the community and the community supports. And this is a new thing right? So we need to be diligent and watch this closely,” he said.
Peter Oliver, president of the Beltline Neighbourhoods Association, echoed Woolley’s comments, saying residents are “cautiously optimistic”
“We could always use more activity here, so more businesses help and more residents help,” Oliver said. “I think it (cannabis stores) adds to the variety of business here that make up the eco system.”
While there is no cap on how many applications the city can receive, there are limits on how many stores one company can own in Alberta.
The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission, which is regulating sales and approving licences for cannabis stores, anticipates 250 stores will open in the first year of legalization.
No one person or company can operate more that 15 per cent, or 37 stores, of the province’s pot portfolio.
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