High hopes for small town cannabis

Brook Pries has high hopes for the cannabis business in Canada.

Pries and her husband, Cole Bosnick, applied March 12 for a retail dispenser’s licence in Strathmore, Alta., and hope to be among the first out of the gate when cannabis is legalized later this year.

She sees the trade as a new form of rural development for growers and dispensers.

“There’s potential for smaller farmers who have an acreage or an extra building and they want to get involved and design their own craft label. I think there is going to be a huge market for organic cannabis,” she said.

“There will be all kinds of room for niches in the market.”

The government plans to allow different forms of grow operations, from large producers to micro-cultivation where growers would likely have limits, although no one is sure whether that will be based on gross revenue, plant count or sales.

“I think they really want to encourage the small producers and the small guys to get into the legal market. They don’t want it gobbled up by huge corporations so the small producers cannot get in and operate on the black market,” she said.

The Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission is running the program for the province, which decided to license dispensaries as private stores, similar to the way liquor stores are licensed.

The ALGC will distribute cannabis to retailers and the government has predicted there could be about 250 private storefronts this year. The government is also handling online sales.

However, there are already websites selling it and people get their orders in the mail so Pries questions how the province can control that activity.

The application process to open a retail outlet costs about $4,100 and includes 70 pages of paperwork plus complete background checks on her and husband. Potential investors would also be checked. There are strict rules about naming of stores, advertising and security.

In addition, Strathmore town council must authorize a new development permit to dispense cannabis.

If she decided to grow it legally she would have to have a separate business.

Edible products are not allowed at this time and she sees that as a huge market but the intoxicating levels of THC should be controlled, especially for inexperienced users.

“Ten milligrams of THC is the standard dose for an edible product in Colorado. Right now, in the black market you can get a cookie with 200 mg in it,” she said.

She thinks Canada will follow the Colorado example.

She has marijuana with a medical authorization and bakes with it by infusing butter for personal use.

Admittedly a long-time user herself, she still wants the business regulated and wants people to be considerate of others when they are using it.

“Just because you get the right doesn’t mean you have to be obnoxious about it,” she said.

Legalization is not likely to increase use but in the first few months there could be unexpected issues.

“There is going to be a bump here or there but I don’t think it is going to be a problem,” she said.

Surveys show 19 percent of adult Albertans use it on a regular basis and 24 percent said they would consume it after legalization. She thinks women may be the ones who adopt edible and topical products.

“Women are far more likely to consume cannabis for self-care than recreation. They are far more likely to use capsules or oils or edibles than to smoke, especially if they have never used cannabis before,” she said.

Contact barbara.duckworth@producer.com

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