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Budding entrepreneurs in Jasper

by Evan Matthews |

As Canada moves closer toward pot legalization in July 2018, the seeds have already been planted in the minds of Jasper’s potential business owners.

In December Community Futures West Yellowhead (CFWY) confirmed to Jasper town councillors that the organization is working with prospective pot shop owners in order to get businesses ready for marijuana legalization this upcoming summer.

“We work with people from every industry, and cannabis is no different. People have been coming to us and asking how to move forward with the changing laws,” general manager Nancy Robbins said. “It’s an exciting time because it’s not very often you get to create a new industry in your community.”

The Trudeau government passed third reading and adoption of Bill C-45 on Nov. 27, 2017, effectively legalizing regulated marijuana sales on July 1, 2018. However, the federal government has passed the responsibility of regulating the substance to each individual province, and it’s expected each respective municipality will have the ability to apply more stringent cannabis legislation locally, if the desire exists.

Which means, though CFWY and its board are working with prospective shop owners, the organization is simply working with potential owners on business plans, or whether banks will provide loans to potential owners, according to board chairperson and Jasper municipal councillor, Helen Kelleher-Empey.

But until the provincial framework is finalized, the CFWY’s Investment Review Committee will not be seriously looking at companies to loan capital investment to.

“We (will) have an open mind once it becomes law,” says Kelleher-Empey. “Whatever opportunities come before the Investment Review Committee, the loans will be considered as all other loans are now. But these shops won’t even be looked at (for investment) until the framework is in place.”

On a provincial level, the Alberta Legislature passed the third reading of its pot regulation bill and sent it for royal assent.

While bureaucracy can often slow things down, taking time to do things the right way isn’t a bad thing, according to Robbins, as the decisions made now will shape the industry long into the future.

“It’s okay to be cautious… But we have to look at California and at Colorado, for example. There are lots of successful examples of community integration (with marijuana),” says Robbins. “This is new everywhere in Canada, and as citizens we can influence this how this looks.”

Alberta released its proposed cannabis framework back in October, and the government asked for public feedback via an online survey, which closed Oct. 27, 2017. The government has not released the findings of its October survey.

The proposed framework outlines who will be able to buy and use cannabis once it is legal, where they will be able to buy it, and where they will be allowed to use it, according to the province.

The province has four main policy priorities within its framework as it prepares for legalization: keeping cannabis out of the hands of children, promoting public safety on roads, in workplaces and in public spaces, protecting public health and limiting the illicit market. Full details are available on the provincial website.

Once federal legalization comes into effect on July 1, 2018 and the provincial government has given Royal Assent to Bill 26, municipalities will finalize local bylaws.

Once local bylaws are set, prospective pot shop owners will have to acquire business licenses through Parks Canada, and then the municipality.

In October, Jasper CAO Mark Fercho told the Fitzhugh that the municipality has no definitive idea as to how cannabis will be regulated (provincial government) or zoned (Parks Canada) — so discussing business licenses remained premature.

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