Nine months after cannabis was legalized in Canada, the first recreational marijuana retailer has opened in Airdrie – and more are on the way.
The Airdrie branch of Plantlife Cannabis, located in the Kingsview Market Shopping Plaza, opened its doors to customers July 18.
“It’s been a drawn-out process, but we’re privileged to be the first ones out of the gate,” said Ian Scott, operations manager for Plantlife Cannabis. “We were inspected back in December , so we were sitting dormant for six to eight months.”
According to Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis’s (AGLC) website, six retailers in Airdrie have received licenses to sell recreational cannabis and will be able to open in July or August.
One of those is Strain Lane, located at 102-2966 Main Street. The independent retailer received its license from AGLC July 15, according to co-founders Grant and Genny Guenther, and will open Aug. 15.
“We’ve had positive feedback from people – I think a lot of people are rooting for the underdog,” Guenther said. “If you look at the way licenses were issued and how long the process took, it favoured large corporations with access to unlimited funds.”
Having leased the Main Street location since June 2018, Guenther said it will be a relief to finally sell some product after more than a year of not having any cash flow.
Strain Lane was one of the businesses affected by AGLC’s six-month-long moratorium on cannabis business licenses. The moratorium, in place from Dec. 1, 2018, to May 30, was due to a supply shortage of legal cannabis in the province.
It was a stressful time for Guenther, as he said he and his wife had to continue paying the lease on their space, despite the lack of revenue.
“We were left in a state of purgatory,” he said. “As the months go by, you really start second-guessing whether this is the right path. It takes a lot of perseverance and belief that things would turn out okay.”
He added the store will be ready for customers come mid-August.
“We still believed in the path and believed in ourselves enough to continue,” he said. “We just hoped the government would catch up.”
The second cannabis outlet to open in Airdrie will be RARE Cannabis Co., located at 5-213 Main Street. Co-owner Ami Ballman said the store will open July 26.
“Being a part of the cannabis industry is an exciting time – it’s blazing a new trail,” she said. “In my mind, we’re part of a revolutionary movement that has people opening their minds to the idea of cannabis.”
The other three retailers in Airdrie are slated to open next month.
Two of the outlets will be a part of the NewLeaf Cannabis chain. According to the stores’ managers, a location at 8-620 1 Avenue NW plans to hold its grand opening Aug. 2, with the second – at 101-400 Main Street NE – following suit Aug. 16.
The voice mail for Best Buds Outlet – an independent retailer located at 100-124 1 Avenue NE – stated the store plans to open in mid-August.
With six licensed providers soon to be available in Airdrie, Guenther said there is a clear demand for legal pot in the city.
“Having a cannabis store in Airdrie brings jobs into Airdrie and it cuts down on the illicit market,” he said.
“You have people who will spend their money on cannabis [and] the tax goes back towards the people. They’re going to buy cannabis, regardless, so why not tax it and help the entire community?”
Scott, who opened the Canadian Brewhouse in Airdrie a few years ago, said he hopes Plantlife Cannabis can educate people about marijuana and erase some of the misconceptions that still surround the drug.
“We’re a generation from it being very normal and being a part of the fabric of what Canada is,” he said, “but I think it’s great that those conversations are happening, and it’s now a dinner table conversation.”