Calgary wants to be ready for cannabis cafés—even if they aren't legal yet.
While Canadian adults can make and consume their own marijuana edibles, they're not legal for sale just yet. However, the federal government is expected to regulate cannabis-infused snacks and drinks sometime next year, once the provinces have had time to smooth out the wrinkles in their current recreational marijuana regulations. And once that happens, Calgary wants to be ready.
"October 17 was certainly a big day but was not the finish line. This is the next big piece on our radar," Matt Zablonski, the leader of Calgary's recreational cannabis program, told the Calgary Herald, referring to the date cannabis was legalized in Canada and the prospect of cannabis cafés in the city. "There's probably just as much work if not more in preparing things like land use and business license requirements [for cannabis cafés]."
Zablonski's statement seems to be particularly astute, given the amount of challenges some provinces are continuing to face in light of recreational cannabis' recent legalization. He notes that some neighborhoods in Calgary have shown strong opposition to dispensaries opening in their area and he assumes the city will face similar push-back when it comes to cafés.
"[Cafés] are likely to be another round of concern, so that's why we want to be thorough in our preparation, to reflect the views of Calgarians," Zablonski said.
The city has yet to establish what cannabis cafés will look like, but they're evaluating what strategies have been used in the few places that have regulated social consumption sites, such as Denver, Colorado. Smoking, however, is not likely to be allowed in these establishments, where the focus will instead be on cannabis-infused food and drink.
Some people in the industry are skeptical about the prospect of cannabis cafés. Jeff Mooij, president of marijuana retailer Four20 Premium Market, says these kinds of retail stores don't exist anywhere yet, and figuring out how to regulate them may prove challenging.
"It's not like you can just open up a bake shop and sell it. No one's ever opened one, not even in Colorado after five years of legalization," he said. "People here just don't understand what they're talking about."
The real prospects for cannabis cafés in Calgary, or anywhere in Canada for that matter, will largely remain up in the air until the federal government announces their laws surrounding marijuana edibles. And until then, we'll just have to wait and see.