Pot prof­its up in smoke

Al­berta busi­ness own­ers were ready to sell cannabis in time for Oct. 17 — in­vest­ing thou­sands. But over a month af­ter le­gal­iza­tion, some stores re­main closed due to crip­pling sup­ply short­ages

StarMetro Edmonton - - FRONT PAGE - ‘I'M JUST PER­SON­ALLY VERY DIS­AP­POINTED’ THES­TAR.COM/ED­MON­TON

Like many bud­ding busi­ness own­ers in Al­berta, Chris Zim­mer­man and his brother felt the ex­cit­ing rush ahead of the his­toric le­gal­iza­tion of cannabis on Oct. 17.

They jumped through all the reg­u­la­tory hur­dles in or­der to be li­censed sell­ers of mar­i­juana in time for the date — they built a steel back room and in­stalled a high-tech se­cu­rity sys­tem, per reg­u­la­tions, then ap­plied for a per­mit with the City of Ed­mon­ton to en­sure they were the only cannabis store within 200 me­tres. Fi­nally, they put up large, LED signs that read, “Glenora Cannabis,” in big, white let­ter­ing on their store in cen­tral Ed­mon­ton.

The store is ready to open any minute now, ex­cept for one fi­nal hur­dle: Zim­mer­man and his brother have yet to re­ceive a li­cence from the Al­berta Gam­ing, Liquor and Cannabis Com­mis­sion (AGLC) due to a crip­pling short­age of cannabis from sup­pli­ers. This short­age has forced even some larger, al­ready-li­censed busi­nesses to shut­ter their doors sev­eral days a week as they wait for stock.

When the le­gal­iza­tion of cannabis was an­nounced na­tion­wide, hun­dreds of peo­ple dashed to join the green rush in Al­berta — one of the few prov­inces that al­lowed pri­vate re­tail­ers to cash in on the new busi­ness. But the bub­ble may now be burst­ing.

“I’m just per­son­ally very dis­ap­pointed by the whole sit­u­a­tion,” Zim­mer­man said. He said his fam­ily has in­vested around $200,000 in their Ed­mon­ton store. Zim­mer­man an­tic­i­pated the shop would not be op­er­a­tional un­til mid- to late-No­vem­ber, but the lat­est es­ti­mates from the AGLC sug­gest that busi­nesses

wait­ing on a li­cence may have to hold out an­other six to 18 months.

“We can make it an­other four, five months with­out it be­ing too bad, but this time­line is re­ally hard to han­dle,” he said. “... We’ve al­ready in­vested so much in this. The only way to re­coup the money at this point is to have the store open.”

Zim­mer­man is not alone. Jesse Bartlett, a Cal­gary busi­ness owner, broke into cannabis re­tail by way of a med­i­cal dis­pen­sary. By the time Oct. 17 rolled around, he had four store lo­ca­tions ready to go. A fifth is cur­rently un­der ap­peal. But de­spite

“I’M FULLY STAFFED, I’M READY TO GO — AND TWIDDLING MY THUMBS.” Jesse Bartlett, Glenora Cannabis

hav­ing about a dozen staff and back­ing from a ma­jor Aus­tralian in­vestor, Bartlett said he hasn’t been able to open shop at all.

“We have noth­ing to sell,” he said.

On­go­ing sup­ply is­sues with the AGLC have made it next to im­pos­si­ble for him to jus­tify open­ing, he said, de­spite hav­ing all the nec­es­sary AGLC and city ap­provals for four-fifths of his stores. None­the­less, Bartlett still has bills to pay: rent on all his store lo­ca­tions, plus his em­ploy­ees’ wages, which he es­ti­mates set him back $65,000 a month.

“That’s been the only is­sue,” Bartlett said. “I’m fully staffed, I’m ready to go — and twiddling

my thumbs.”

Get­ting rid of his store­fronts or let­ting staff go also isn’t an op­tion. The uncer­tainty of the time­line pro­vided by the AGLC means Bartlett still needs to hang on to — and pay for — ev­ery­thing he needs to run Ur­ban Canna if he wants to stay in the busi­ness.

“It could hap­pen to­mor­row,” he said of a fix to the sup­ply is­sues. “And if I’m not fully staffed — again, I’m screwed.

“I’m fight­ing for my life as I watch my busi­ness go up in smoke,” Bartlett said.

CODIE MCLACH­LAN/STARMETRO

Doug Zim­mer­man, left, and his brother Chris Zim­mer­man are co-own­ers of Glenora Cannabis in Ed­mon­ton — which has not been able to open due to sup­ply short­ages.

CHRISTINA RYAN FOR STARMETRO CAL­GARY

Cal­gary busi­ness owner Jesse Bart­let had four cannabis re­tail lo­ca­tions ready to go in time for le­gal­iza­tion. Now he is left to wait­ing as he watches Ur­ban Canna burn through money with­out a sin­gle store open.

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