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Toronto cannabis lifestyle brand expands to Calgary first

by papapuff » Fri Sep 29, 2017 11:47 am

MetroNews Canada

Toronto cannabis lifestyle brand expands to Calgary first

Tokyo Smoke chose to open a location in Calgary because it was weed-friendly, but the City of Calgary said it’s all a gamble until Alberta finalizes its cannabis policy

By: Elizabeth Cameron Published on Fri Sep 29 2017

When describing Calgary, the term ‘cannabis-friendly’ might not be the first thing to come to mind, but it’s why Toronto coffee shop and cannabis lifestyle brand Tokyo Smoke chose the city for its first out-of-province expansion.

The chain, which sells traditional café fare alongside cannabis accessories, is opening a location in Calgary’s Beltline this November.

“Looking around (Calgary), we obviously fell in love with it,” said Josh Lyon, head of marketing and partnerships for Tokyo Smoke.

“We did an expo there and just the reaction about potentially coming there really hit home that we were making the right decision.”

Tokyo Smoke has three storefronts in Ontario and plans to open six more in North America by the end of this year, including the Calgary location on 12 Avenue and 1 Street SW.

They don’t sell weed, just accessories and lifestyle products, but Lyon said the company hopes that will change if provincial governments allow private businesses to sell recreational pot once it’s legalized by the federal government next year.

Alberta is expected to release a draft of their cannabis policy framework in the coming weeks and gather feedback from the public before making final decisions on key questions such as what age Albertans should be able to access recreational pot.

Lyon said Tokyo Smoke stores are designed to be a comfortable, welcoming environment to encourage people who may not be familiar with cannabis to ask questions and acquire weed through legal channels, should the brand start retailing recreational marijuana.

“If we’re hoping to get it out of the black market, it’s incumbent on us and the government to ensure the actual retail and purchasing process speaks to consumers — that it’s something people want to interact with and are comfortable interacting with,” Lyon said, emphasizing the brand isn’t interested in the medicinal market and will adhere to whatever the regulations are set out in each province.

Business strategist Matt Zabloski with the City of Calgary said it’s all a gamble until Alberta finalizes its cannabis policy.

“We’re really kind of beholden to the province and federal government as far as what the regulations will be like,” he said. “If our province goes the same route as Ontario, then that opportunity (to retail cannabis) might not even be there.”

Alberta could go the same route as it has with liquor, where everything is privatized and regulated by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission, or it could go the Ontario route, where the provincial government will handle cannabis sales and distribution.

“Obviously, it will have pretty significant impacts for our bylaws one way or the other,” Zabloski said.

He said the city has considered the possibility of creating different land use or business licenses specifically for cannabis retailers, but it’s too soon to know what will actually be needed.

Currently, there are regulations in Alberta for medical marijuana production facilities and medical marijuana counselling services to exist. Medical marijuana is produced and distributed by Health Canada.

“What we’re planning on is, figuring out what (the provincial framework) will mean for the City of Calgary and then engaging with Calgarians to see what they’d like to see as far as regulations or bylaws,” Zabloski said.
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