News / Edmonton

Pot dispensaries ready to roll in Edmonton

As Vancouver company moves in, shuttered Edmonton business fights to reopen.

Tara Stafford is pictured working at the Green Room, a new marijuana information centre near Whyte Avenue, Wednesday.

Kevin Tuong / Metro Order this photo

Tara Stafford is pictured working at the Green Room, a new marijuana information centre near Whyte Avenue, Wednesday.

The race is on for Edmonton's first pot shop, as would-be marijuana dispensaries wait for the green light from officials.

The Green Room Society, a Vancouver-based chain, has opened an information centre on 81 Avenue and Gateway Blvd., where people can consult with a health practitioner for free to learn more about the drug.

While it is not currently a dispensary, the company’s president Frederick Pels makes no bones about the reason he’s here.

“We’re not expecting the city to (allow dispensaries) until it’s ready, but we are positioning ourselves to be in the city for when that does happen,” Pels said. “In the meantime, we are providing a valuable service.”

The Green Room plans to open three more information centres in Edmonton, and hopes to eventually turn them all into dispensaries.

In the meantime, its current centre – marked by conspicuous green Christmas lights around its window frame – has signed up 1,000 customers since opening on Dec. 16.

“It just gets busier every day,” Pels said.

Pels would like to see the city sort out a regulatory framework before federal legalization arrives this spring. His business is ready to start dispensing before the federal law comes in, if the city gives them the OK.

Aaron Bott ran a medical marijuana dispensary called Mobile Access Compassionate Resources Organization Society (MACROS), which served 1,000 patients out of its family owned business Hemperfi on 118 Avenue.

But Edmonton Police raided and shut it down in summer 2015, while RCMP simultaneously raided a family member and business partner's home.

Charges were withdrawn against Bott just last month, and Hemperfi was fined $6,500 for holding an illegal identity. Bott is now trying to fundraise that money to get his seized equipment back from police.

“It was frustrating. We wasted a year and six months putting our family through financial pressures. It basically had taken us down financially,” he said.

Bott is part of a stakeholder group that will present recommendations on marijuana regulation to the Alberta government in the coming months.

While he also hopes the city gets a jump on federal legislation, Bott plans to operate fully within the law when he reboots operations.

“I know there’s a lot of companies that are trying to break into the Alberta market, but we’re very cautious on how we’re going to do that,” Bott said. “We want to work with the government, not against them. I hope they realize that the dispensary model is a needed model.”

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