Business applauds Alberta consideration of private cannabis retailing option

CALGARY _ Business leaders are welcoming Alberta’s decision to not decide yet whether recreational cannabis will be sold through private or government owned retail shops when it becomes legal next year.

Richard Truscott, B.C. and Alberta vice-president for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, says he’s pleased that Alberta hasn’t followed Ontario in excluding the private sector from retail sales.

He says selling cannabis only in government-run shops would be “going back in time” to the way alcohol was sold before Alberta privatized its liquor retailing system in 1993.

Mike Rintoul of Calgary-based Good Earth Pharms, which wants to set up private franchises for recreational cannabis sales in Alberta, agrees but says time is short to set up retail shops before legalization next July, regardless of whether the stores are run by the government or entrepreneurs.

Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley says there are pluses and minuses to both options while introducing draft regulations and inviting Alberta residents to give feedback over the next three weeks.

She says it would be more costly for government to build a retail chain of shops from scratch but it could miss out on tax revenues down the road if it isn’t in on retailing pot from the start.