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What you need to know about cannabis legalization in Calgary

Photo: courtesy Pixabay

By RACHAEL FREY

Today, Canada becomes the second nation in the world to legalize the recreational use of cannabis. While governing bodies and citizens alike are still working out all the implications — positive and negative — of legal cannabis, a few realities are emerging from the haze. One thing that’s clear is cannabis retail is not going to be like your grandma’s head shops. Beaded curtains and Bob Marley posters are out; clean, modern design aesthetics are in. Gone are the days when consumers would get a mystery baggie and figure out the effects through trial and error — retailers are prepared to help consumers navigate the dizzying array of products available.

Quick Facts:

• The total cannabis market in Canada — including legal and illegal recreational products and medical products — is expected to generate up to $7.17 billion in 2019. Legal sales are expected to comprise more than half of that, up to $4.34 billion.

• Consumers who currently purchase illegal cannabis say they’re willing to pay about 10 per cent more for legal products.

• The frequency at which consumers purchase cannabis is expected to increase by 22 per cent for frequent users and 121 per cent for less frequent users.

• It is expected that the majority of consumers will purchase their products through brick-and-mortar retail locations, while about one-third will also buy products online.

• Legalization is expected to have a negative impact on alcohol sales as consumers substitute cannabis for beer, wine and spirits.

• More than half of current and likely cannabis consumers are interested in trying edible products, though edibles won’t be available legally for at least a year after cannabis is legalized.

Source: Deloitte 2018 cannabis report

“If someone is new to cannabis, or has been away from it for a while, our staff will help guide them to a product and experience they hope for,” says Angus Taylor, CAO at NewLeaf Cannabis. “(We) seek to offer a welcoming and informative environment where anyone can feel comfortable communicating their needs, as basic or complex as they may be.”

While being among the first to market a newly legalized product has its potential pitfalls, retailers such as Trevor Fencott, CEO of Fire and Flower, are excited to meet the challenge. “The legalization of recreational cannabis is a historic moment in Canada,” Fencott says. “It has been and will continue to be a process to see how the industry develops over the next year.”

Who can use cannabis?
Anyone over the age of 18 in Alberta and Quebec or over 19 in the rest of Canada, including Canadians and visitors from other countries, can use cannabis provided they follow laws and regulations. Cannabis use by minors is strictly prohibited, and minors may not enter cannabis retail locations.

Where can I buy cannabis?
Cannabis can be purchased online at albertacannabis.org, which is operated by the provincial government. It can also be purchased at licensed retail outlets in various forms suitable for smoking and vaping. While many more retail locations are expected to be approved in the coming months, only two have interim licenses to operate in Calgary on October 17:

Four20 Premium Market
D290, 9737 MacLeod Tr SW

Nova Cannabis at Willow Park
252, 10816 MacLeod Tr SE

The inside of NewLeaf, a cannabis store in Calgary (not yet open). (Photo: courtesy NewLeaf)

Where can I use cannabis?
It is legal to smoke, vape or otherwise consume cannabis on private property. The property owner may choose to restrict cannabis use on their property, meaning that it can be forbidden by landlord/tenant agreements or condo bylaws. It is illegal to consume cannabis in public places, except for designated cannabis consumption areas. As of right now, there are no areas designated for cannabis use, but if and when they are approved, they will be listed on the City of Calgary’s website.

Festivals and events in Calgary can receive permission to provide a designated cannabis consumption area, similar to beer gardens. These will be open air, fenced off zones for 18+ only. Smoking lounges, cafes or specialized bars for cannabis are not permitted, though this has the potential to change in coming years. Cannabis may not be used at any cannabis retail outlets. Using cannabis in vehicles (moving or stationary) is not permitted and it cannot be within reach of anyone in a vehicle.

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