Residents split over cannabis retailers

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Residents are split when it comes to pot shops opening in St. Albert. While some say it’s a good move, others aren’t as convinced.

Walking down the street toting her seven-month-old in arms, Callista Gunther said she feels opening cannabis stores in St. Albert is a step in the wrong direction.

“I don’t agree with any kind of recreational drug usage and marijuana is a drug,” she said.

Gunther grew up in St. Albert and said she’s concerned about what legalization means for the community. She said she’s concerned about the smell of cannabis looming over the streets and seeping into the backyard of her home.

“St. Albert is one of the top cities to live in. I think if we come from a great city, then we should be doing more than just spending money on things that aren’t progressing our future,” she said.

Gunther added that there’s a concern over safety, as there’s still not adequate testing available for cannabis. Most roadside tests can determine if you have the drug in your system, but not how long ago you consumed.

That means even if a user isn’t under the influence while driving, they could still test positive.

Jen Bourque, who doesn’t use cannabis, said she might check out the stores once the drug is legalized. She said the stores will provide a safe space for people to buy the drug. Up until this point she’s been too scared to use the drug since it could be laced with anything, including fentanyl.

“I would rather have it regulated than buying it off the streets,” she said. “There could be anything in it.”

Standing next to her on the Red Willow walking trail is her friend Lea Brown. She uses cannabis in the morning and in the evening to alleviate anxiety.

“I see both sides of it, where I’ll use it just for fun and having a few drinks, but for medicinal purposes it’s amazing too,” she said, adding that people using cannabis act differently than those using other substances.

“For a drug, you never see two stoners brawling in a park.”

Even though both are in support of the cannabis stores, however, Bourque and Brown each said they felt there should only be a couple cannabis locations in St. Albert.

New applicants

Two more cannabis locations are up for objection in St. Albert, according to the latest Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission’s public list.

420 Premium Market is applying for a space at 10 McKenney Avenue and Revolution Cannabis is applying for a space at 15 Erin Ridge Road. The deadlines are set for May 28 and May 30, respectively.

Residents will have up until those dates to send in any concerns they have about the proposed locations. The two recent applications mark the 10th and 11th proposed pot shops in the city.

Jeff Mooij, president of 420 Clinic, said they were looking at a location in St. Albert to open their store 420 Premium Market.

When asked why the company was interested in St. Albert, Mooij said the community was close to Edmonton. Beyond that, not much has differentiated the city from other communities.

“You’re just outside Edmonton so that helps,” he said. “In general I think there’s a tremendous amount of interest in the retail environment in Alberta period.”

420 Clinic is a medical cannabis company with clinics in Calgary and Lethbridge. The company decided to expand and offer recreational cannabis under the name 420 Premium Market.

Originally there were two locations on the AGLC objections list, but Mooij said they had pulled one of the applications due to landlord issues with the retail property.

So far St. Albert has had more cannabis applications than any other municipality in the Edmonton area.

Mayor Cathy Heron said she felt St. Albert’s population had something to do with it. St. Albert is the second largest municipality outside Edmonton, next to Sherwood Park.

“It probably also has to do with this council has been very accepting of the legality of it and hasn’t really taken a lot of steps to unnecessarily restrict legitimate businesses in St. Albert.”

She said the city will not have a cap on how many cannabis retailers can be in St. Albert.

“I’m fine with it, it’s a legal business in St. Albert and it’s good for our economy,” she said.

According to Heron, the final specifications of what cannabis will look like in St. Albert will be determined on June 25th, when final readings on bylaws related to cannabis will be approved.

Resident Lucas Zechel said similar sentiments. As long as the businesses follow the rules, he said he doesn’t care how many make St. Albert their home.

“Some people have concerns over where the retail shops are, I don’t really care. We have so many liquor stores and nobody cares about that. I don’t see the big difference.”

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Dayla Lahring

Dayla Lahring joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2017. She writes about business, health, general news and features. She also contributes photographs.