Alberta's cannabis leadership attracts first-of-its kind trade show to Calgary

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Alberta’s pot prominence has lured major marijuana producers to a Calgary gathering meant to strengthen the industry and hobble the black market.

Two dozen Canadian licensed producers will exhibit and explain the secrets of their craft to 300 to 400 mostly invited cannabis retail players at the Lift&Co Retail Tradeshow at Stampede Park’s BMO Centre on Thursday.

Calgary was chosen to host the first of the events in recognition of the province’s rollout of the fledgling industry that’s seen as a model for the rest of the country, said Allan Rewak of the Ontario-based Cannabis Council of Canada, which is co-hosting the event.

“Alberta’s the most advanced in the country, you’ve got the most advanced infrastructure,” said Rewak, noting the large number of shops that have been provincially licensed.

But Rewak acknowledged the countrywide hiccups experienced by the industry across Canada — many of them centring around supply issues — and said the trade show aims to fortify retailers by expanding their knowledge base.

“It’s meant to connect store owners with licensed producers . . . it’s about giving retailers the tools for them to be successful in telling those stories,” he said.

Helping retailers impart precisely what they’re selling, down to the genetics of the cannabis and how it’s grown, will also help set the legal industry apart from the black market — and undermine it, said Rewak.

“It’s ensuring the legal retail experience at a minimum meets and exceeds what it’s been in the illegal experience,” said Rewak, whose organization represents about 85 per cent of Canadian cannabis cultivation.

“Otherwise, it’ll be seen as just a bunch of suits who don’t know the product, and people will just go back to the illegal side.”

One month after recreational marijuana legalization began, product shortages and the delay of store openings, along with complaints about high legal prices, have bedevilled the industry.

Those issues will be on the minds of retailers when they meet with producers at the trade show, said Mack Andrews, vice-president of the Alberta Cannabis Collective, which represents marijuana retailers.

“There’ll be questions around brand stories, growing technology, but also definitely product schedules and supply logistics on that list,” said Andrews. “A hundred per cent, there are a lot of concerns.”

But producers, he said, are undoubtedly doing the best they can to meet demand, partly because it’s in their own interests.

And having the show in Calgary is a well-earned recognition of the work done in the province to prepare for legalization, he said.

“I’m pretty excited about it — our mantra is Alberta’s positioned to be a leader in cannabis retailing nationally and even globally,” said Andrews, who hopes to open a cannabis shop in Inglewood by the end of the year.

One reason for the show being held in Alberta, said Andrews, was the delay in the start of Ontario’s private retailing until April of next year.

While the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. trade show is largely by invitation only, tickets can be purchased by those in the industry or who want to be part of it by going to

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