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Cardston open for cannabis business, despite 100-year liquor ban

Cardston open for cannabis business, despite 100-year liquor ban
Business
While a century-long legacy of liquor prohibition survives in Cardston and its surrounding counties, the door’s open to cannabis retail.

It’s just that nobody’s walked through that door, say those who oversee the jurisdictions in the province’s southwest corner whose history is coloured by a large Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Saints (LDS) population.

“When cannabis legalization was coming, we wondered about that, if it would fall under alcohol prohibition and the answer is ‘no,’” said Jeff Shaw, town manager of Cardston.

“We never pushed the idea it should be prohibited.”

The town, he said, has even crafted zoning regulations setting mandatory distance setbacks of cannabis shops from schools, playgrounds and hospitals similar to those throughout the province.

And it’s made zoning allowances for the possible production of cannabis in its industrial area, he added.

In a town as small as Cardston — population 3,909 — those regulations physically limit the possibilities of pot retail locations, said Shaw.

Nobody’s yet applied for a development or business permit to launch a cannabis business in the town, but Shaw said that has a lot to do with the likely limited demand among a predominantly LDS population whose faith officially rejects intoxicants.

Discretion would be a buzzword, he said.

“There’s a lot of LDS people who aren’t potential customers and if they are, they’d likely order it from the Alberta Gaming Liquor Cannabis website,” he said.

“We’re both small- and large-c conservative here, it’s not de-stigmatized, there’d still be discomfort with a storefront, but not for some.”

The closest cannabis dispensaries, he said, are in Lethbridge, 80 kilometres to the northeast.

When seven years of largely ineffective alcohol prohibition in Alberta ended in 1923, areas now encompassing Cardston County and parts of neighbouring Warner County opted to remain dry.

There are no alcohol retail outlets permitted in those areas, though consumption is legal as are event liquor permits.

In Cardston County, an area of 3,414 sq. km. of range land and farms sweeping south of Lethbridge to the U.S. border and west to the feet of the Rockies, local regulations governing all legal cannabis have yet to be completed, said a county official.

Those addressing the production of medical marijuana will “hopefully be here by the middle of next year,” said Chief Administrative Officer Murray Millward.

As for potential pot retailers, “we’ve had a couple of inquiries and discussions but nobody’s made any applications yet but we’ve updated our bylaws for when it does arise.”

Millward said he’s not surprised nobody’s set up a pot shop in the county encompassing about 4,500 residents.

“We’re not a high volume for people, you’re looking at centres where you’ll make money,” he said.

Several years ago, one effort was made to locate a medicinal cannabis growing operation in the county but it vanished after failing to meet federal guidelines, said Millward.

The cannabis production industry has found eager receptions in small-town Alberta in places like Olds, where Sundial Growers is one of the largest local employers.

The town of Taber, with a population of about 8,500, has welcomed a $100-million cannabis production and extraction cooperative, the Grasslands Taber Collaborative, that hopes to begin producing in 2021.
Read more on calgaryherald.com
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