Stashed away in a remote strip mall, northwest Calgary’s only operating cannabis shop is doing a smoking business.Of the 27 retail outlets approved in the city so far by the provincial regulator, Four20 Premium Market’s Sage Hill location has been the only one pushing out bud in the quadrant since legalization last October.And the rhythm of its clientele shows, said chain president Jeff Mooij.“It’s insane for us,” he said. “We get our order in Thursday and it’s gone by Sunday.”Because it serves such a large area, including satellite communities like Airdrie and Cochrane that don’t have any cannabis shops, Four20’s Sage Hill site sells as much product as the chain’s other three locations combined, said Mooij.Like clockwork, lineups often form on delivery day when the selection is best, he said.One day last winter, when the truck bringing product from the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis warehouse near Edmonton broke down, Four20 put the word out on social media, said Mooij.“When it arrived on Saturday, there was a lineup at -26 Celsius,” he said.On a Thursday or payday Friday, the store serves as many as 1,000 customers, said staff.Mooij said northwest applicants probably didn’t make the head of the licensing queue.The northwest store’s assistant manager, Lise Weinberger, said retailers likely placed a priority on inner-city locations perceived to be prime spots rather than more far-flung places like Sage Hill.“Maybe the focus was on the more downtown stores, the more hip stores,” she said.
Lise Weinberger, Assistant Manager at Sage Hill 420 Premium Market poses for a photo inside the store on Thursday, April 25, 2019. Dean Pilling/Postmedia
But many outlets in other quadrants of Calgary are also in suburban areas.Last Thursday afternoon, the pace of business at the Sage Hill store may not have been frantic, but it was a stream that barely let up.“It’s a slow day,” said Weinberger.Customer Tom Murphy said he comes all the way from Bragg Creek to pick up a supply of high-THC sativa at the Sage Hill store due to easy access on highways.“I’ve been here a couple of times and it’s been sold out,” said Murphy, 75.Another customer said the store is busier than others he’s patronized but added it’s all relative.“This one is the only one that ever has a lineup, but it’s not a Starbucks kind of turnover,” said Mike, who wouldn’t give his last name.Most cannabis consumers, he said, still purchase their bud from black market providers because of their lower prices and often use licensed stores to supplement their supply.City regulators have given municipal approval to about three dozen other cannabis stores in the northwest but most of those are stalled due to the AGLC-imposed moratorium on cannabis retail licences.In the past week, the AGLC has approved a NewLeaf Cannabis outlet at 5304 Crowchild Tr. N.W. and Bow Cannabis at 6307 Bowness Rd. N.W.But those stores don’t appear to have opened yet and calls to them on Thursday went straight to voicemail.The city approves such stores based on their proximity to schools, daycares and other cannabis outlets, said Brandi MacInnis, a senior planning and policy strategist.“The quadrants don’t drive our decisions on cannabis stores. … We’re not looking at an imbalance, to make sure they’re proportionally distributed,” she said, noting final approval is up to the AGLC.“It’s to ensure there isn’t a concentration in one area.”The AGLC wouldn’t comment.BKaufmann@postmedia.comOn Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn