History was made in Irricana Aug. 30, as the town’s first legal cannabis retail outlet opened its doors.
Convenient Cannabis Inc., located at 302b 2 St., made its first sales to customers at 1 p.m.
“I’m incredibly excited,” said the store’s proprietor, Nathanial Fleming. “This has been a long journey.”
Fleming was one of 473 entrepreneurs affected by Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis’ (AGLC) moratorium on cannabis licenses earlier this year. From Dec. 1, 2018 to May 30, the moratorium was in place due to a supply shortage of legal cannabis in the province, according to AGLC. Though it was lifted in April, AGLC is only issuing five cannabis licenses per week in an effort to monitor supply and “ensure it remains consistent for all retailers,” according to the organization.
Fleming said, while the province’s cannabis-supply issues were addressed, he has had to pay the lease on his storefront since September 2018 – nearly a full year without Convenient Cannabis Inc. producing revenue.
“This whole process began the end of June 2018,” he said. “I was expecting to open my doors, at the latest, in November . But, instead of getting my license, I got the information about the moratorium, so that was not fun.”
One thing that makes Convenient Cannabis Co. unique is its size. At just 106 square feet of retail space, Fleming claims it is the smallest legal cannabis outlet in Alberta – perhaps even in all of Canada.
“I haven’t found something that is even twice the size of this,” he said.
While being the smallest legal pot shop in the province might be a big enough draw on its own, Fleming said he hopes his business can attract a regular base of clientele Irricana and nearby Beiseker, as well as the region’s rural residents.
“There are no digital assistants here, like in other stores where you pick out what you want on the digital menu and you send it and then you go and pay for it,” he said. “Here, it’s all one-on-one and you’re not going to get anything without going through me.
“It’s all face-to-face and, hopefully, more personal. We’ll see how it goes and how the reaction is to the product I have now.”
The Town of Irricana is also rooting for the business to succeed, according to Chief Administrative Officer Ted Coffey, who attended the store’s opening.
“Marijuana has always been underground, but it’s always been there, and people you wouldn’t expect have been smoking it for years,” he said. “I’m glad to see [this store] open, because I know all the hoops, hurdles, delays and stalls he has had to go through.”
According to Coffey, the Town was ready for cannabis legalization in October 2018, when Town council passed a Cannabis Consumption Bylaw. The bylaw regulates the hours of operation for cannabis retailers, and forbids residents from smoking in public places, such as sidewalks, the community centre and playgrounds.
There are, however, a few exceptions, according to Coffey.
“If you’re sitting in a vehicle with the doors and windows closed, that’s deemed not to be a public place,” he said. “We also said we can put up signage and have a designated smoking area. We’re considering putting a designated smoking area at the edge of the [Founders Park Campground].
“I want to get an old Volkswagen bus. That would be appropriate – we could call it the Cana-bus.”
Though Fleming admitted he’s not sure what the demand is for legal weed in Irricana, he said feedback from the community has been encouraging.
“I had people with questions, which makes sense, but I didn’t have too many people who didn’t want it here,” he said. “It’s been great – for the most part, people were just asking when I was going to open.”
One of the store’s first customers was Donavin Palardy, a Town of Irricana employee. He said he’s glad Irricana – which has a population of roughly 1,200 residents – now has its own cannabis outlet.
“I’m pretty sure there aren’t many small municipalities out there with one, so I’m pretty excited,” he said.
“I think it will do pretty good, but it’s hard to say. Everyone has been smoking behind closed doors for so long that it is hard to know how many people in the town actually smoke.”