Pot shop operator and city prepare for legal marijuana light-up day

By Glenn Hicks
June 21, 2018 - 5:00pm

One of Prince Albert's two retail cannabis licensees said the Senate passing the government's recreational marijuana bill was exciting and historic.

Full legalization will happen within four months, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announcing Wednesday that Canadians will be able to legally buy and consume pot on October 17. Trudeau gave the larger-than-expected window before legalization in order to give provinces the time they need to get their own marijuana regimes in place. The city is also expected to reveal the two small zones in which pot shops will be able to set up in the next month.

“This is a very historic moment for the whole planet, and not just for Canada,” Jim Southam, CEO of Prairie Cannabis, told paNOW. “It’s the start of things to come and I’m excited to be part of it.”

Southam said Trudeau has fulfilled his promise to the people and now it's up to the Province of Saskatchewan, municipalities, and businesses to work together to get the regulations passed and get things going.

“Everybody needs to do what they can to help get this done for legalization day,” he said.

Southam, along with another Saskatoon businessman, Ivan Bergerman, will be Prince Albert’s first two purveyors of legal, recreational marijuana. He said he had a location in mind that he felt would conform to what the city would allow, but wasn’t prepared to discuss it publicly at this stage.

Asked about the mayor’s suggestion that the city’s business license fee for the marijuana retailers could be in excess of $20,000, Southam said there was little he could do about that.

“Eventually we’re going to be just another business, like a liquor store or a pharmacy, and I really don’t think that sort of a price is fair," he said, "but I have to do what they say and pay the fees that are required.”

Reacting to the news of the October 17 light-up date, Mayor Greg Dionne said he hoped the announcement would “end the organized confusion,” but added he still had some concerns.

Dionne said his administration would have been prepared to pass its bylaws around locations and smoking in public even if the legalization date had been in September. Where people are allowed to smoke marijuana in the city will also be subject to a bylaw change, Dionne added, and the public will learn where the two pot shops will be allowed to operate at the July 16 council meeting.

“I can assure the public they will be nowhere near schools or daycares," the mayor told paNOW. “In our whole city, we only have two thin corridors.” 

While Dionne said he doesn’t agree with the four-plant home growing legislation for fear that it will attract crime, he does believe some may consume marijuana rather than alcohol and that “mellowing factor” could be a positive thing.

The cost of enforcement remains his key financial concern, however, and Dionne figured the important discussion regarding revenue-sharing with the province would now heat up with the legalization date set.

“That’s sort of the last hurdle: who is paying the cost?” he said. “I’m digging my heels in on this one. Our taxpayers should not pay one dime on enforcement of marijuana when it’s a profitable product and the feds and province are going to make money on it.”


--With files from The Canadian Press.

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