BANFF – Five cannabis retail stores have been given the green light in Banff.
On Tuesday (Feb. 26), Banff’s Municipal Planning Commission approved development permits for a change of use allowing cannabis stores, although all companies are still waiting on provincial approvals.
Officials say four of the five stores are located in basements and none are within 30 metres of each other – a separation distance established by council to make sure there’s not a proliferation of cannabis stores, a so-called Green Mile.
“This feels pretty historic. It’s our first change of use for cannabis,” said Councillor Corrie DiManno, a council representative on the commission.
“Congratulations to all of you who have made it to one of many finish lines.”
A cannabis store was approved at the former Great Canadian Dollar Store location at 203 Bear St., while further south on Bear Street, Starbuds plans to offer retail at its Compass Cannabis Clinic location in the basement of the Lux Cinema building.
Westleaf has been given the green light to open up in the former Hoodoo Lounge nightclub, while Alcanna Cannabis Stores plans to operate out of the former Internet café in the basement of Sundance Mall.
Banff Cannabis Inc.’s application was approved for a store in the basement of Kirby Lane Mall on the 100 block of Banff Avenue. The business was granted a variance because it’s less than 100 metres from the Banff Rundle Playschool, at 94 metres.
“The variance is minor and falls well within the scope of the variance test,” said applicant Brad Garbert, noting Banff Cannabis Inc. will be locally owned and operated by three Banff natives and one long-term resident.
Westleaf, with Prairie Records as its cannabis retail brand, has a unique retail concept that merges recreational cannabis and music and replicates a contemporary record shop.
Dave Michaels, development planner for the Town of Banff, said there could be music listening stations set up, but only cannabis and cannabis-related products can be sold.
“If they wanted to have a separate retail side for music, they would have to complete a completely separate unit downstairs, which isn’t proposed at the moment,” said Michaels.
“However, if they have CDs you can listen to when you’re in there and there’s no money changing hands, as far as I understand there’s no AGLC requirements to prevent that.”
MPC questioned the size of Westleaf’s 5,000-sqaure-feet space.
Darren Enns, the Town of Banff’s development services manager, said there is some speculation.
“There is speculation that some tenants try to acquire leases as beachheads in a market, so that should regulations change in the future, i.e. onsite consumption lounges, they already have the space,” he said.
“It’s a fairly costly gamble but it’s certainly speculation on what occurs when we see these larger spaces.”
All cannabis locations will undergo renovations, but the store at the former Dollar Store will be more extensive. This development requires renovations to the front of the building because retail stores cannot have windows facing the street or sidewalk.
MPC raised concerns that cannabis and associated products may be seen through the door entrance, but applicant Jeff Hines said AGLC has very specific criteria.
“To quell your concerns, you’re not going to be able to sit at the door and see marijuana,” he said. “It’s not going to happen anywhere in Alberta.”