News / Calgary

Calgary considering hard line for licensing Cannabis retailers

Those who broke the law in the past may have a hard time joining the legal marketplace

In this Sept. 27, 2016, file photo, different strains of marijuana are displayed in West Salem Cannabis, a marijuana shop in Salem, Ore.

Andrew Selsky / AP

In this Sept. 27, 2016, file photo, different strains of marijuana are displayed in West Salem Cannabis, a marijuana shop in Salem, Ore.

Calgary's dealers looking to get into the legit market may be cut out as the city moves toward criminal background checks for those profiting off pot.

In a citizen survey released on Monday, the city asked citizens and stakeholders about cannabis attitudes as they polish bylaws and bring them to council first as Land Use bylaw amendments in February followed by coordinated bylaw amendments between all impacted departments in April.

The city reported a split in retail hopefuls who want stringent rules, like background checks into criminal history, versus those who argued for a first come, first served application process when it comes to licensing.

Matt Zabloski, lead for the city’s cannabis legalization project said the province has already mulled a criminal background sweep for business owners, and the city's leaning that way too.

"The idea of licensing and criminal background checks is an idea we've been considering for city business licenses," Zabloski said.

In the report, the city points to potential business-owners having concerns that without the proper checks and balances, those who were selling pot illegally could gain a foothold in the legal market.

Ryan Kaye VP of Operations with the 420 Clinic said they already do background checks on all of their employees.

"We've been very careful to be on the right side of the law in every way possible," Kaye said. "It's best for the industry to have the best and most responsible operators."

He said often finding the best crop isn't as simple as a criminal background check because those operating in the illegal market might not have criminal records. He said it's reasonable to consider other checks and balances for those entering a licensed and legal market.

Kaye said the 420 Clinic has an interest in entering the dispensary market once pot is legal, but without details from the government they don't know what their model will look like.

Federally, the government's November 2017 regulation outline set the tone, barring anyone with a drug trafficking or serious drug-related violent offence from getting a license. But the proposed regulations did make room for people with non-violent lower-risk charges – like possession or small-scale growing – to be licensed.

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