Despite setbacks, there are high hopes for Alberta's cannabis industry, say experts

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Alberta, by many measures, is leading Canada’s fledgling cannabis industry, with more retail outlets and higher profits when compared to other provinces.

However, with a moratorium on new cannabis retailers, a struggling supply chain and the prospect of new products such as edibles entering the market in October, the question is whether the province can keep its competitive edge.

Cannabis industry expert Deepak Anand believes it not only will, but has the potential to be an industry leader globally.

“Alberta, I think, has really taken the bull by the horns,” said Anand. He believes if the moratorium — imposed last November by Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis — is lifted, then Alberta “is the perfect breeding ground for large, retail corporations to be born not just on the Canadian landscape but also on the international landscape.”

The province is home to a number of established and large retailers that Anand believes will become even more successful when edibles are legalized because of their track record in being open, and more importantly, compliant.

“Retailers here are much better prepared to take on other provinces than someone new coming online,” he said, so long as the provincial government doesn’t “hamper their efforts.”

Anand joined about 200 industry leaders, including producer, retailer and health experts, on Friday at the BMO Centre for an industry conference on the eve of Calgary’s Cannabis and Hemp Expo taking place this weekend. Experts at the conference said cannabis supply is growing each month.

The AGLC issued a temporary halt on new applications for retail licences a month after legalization due to pot shortages. In January, it relaxed the suspension and added 10 permits, bringing the total to 75 for all of Alberta. Market analysis has suggested the moratorium could last up to 18 months.

Also attending the cannabis expo Friday was Sherry Boodram, CEO of CannDelta, a regulatory and scientific cannabis consulting company led by former Health Canada employees. She agreed with Anand’s assessment that Alberta will remain an industry leader in Canada.

“I think people try to be compliant across the board, but I think Alberta has a good enough balance between understanding what the consumers want and what the government bodies want, and it seems they are working together really well,” she said. “They have been set up for success, so I would imagine (Alberta) would be ahead of the game, especially if they keep going at the pace they are going.”

However, Lift & Co.’s Nick Pateras said while Alberta will remain a strong market, he expects it will lose out to provinces with larger populations in the future. He said the introduction of edibles will interest category newcomers, potentially increasing sales in provinces such as Ontario and Quebec.

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