The first 15 companies to be considered for a cannabis retail business licence in Grande Prairie have been chosen. In total, 27 applications were filed in full before the deadline on Friday, July 6th.

A lottery was held Monday at city hall to choose the order by which they will be processed. The operators of Peaceleaf Cannabis got to relax early, as they were drawn second overall.

“It was a huge relief to be second, definitely,” says president Lucas Hinks.

“It’s a huge weight lifted off our shoulders for sure,” agrees vice-president Roberto Lopez.

In mid-June, Grande Prairie city council elected to cap the number of business licences for pot shops at 15 for the first year, creating the need for a lottery. Lopez says they’re happy with how the process went.

“It was frustrating at first but then after we took a step back we realized it’s the fairest option for all the companies.”

“If they did some other method where it was subjective, where they reviewed business plans, then there’s just an opportunity for bias,” adds Hinks.

Being one of the first 15 companies selected doesn’t guarantee them a development permit or business licence, which means those further down on the list still have an opportunity to set up shop. The city’s manager of planning and development Joe Johnson says some could run into issues when it comes to the requirements for distance between stores.

“The person who’s drawn first will likely not introduce any of those issues with respect to clustering or separation distances,” he explains. “If subsequent applications introduce a proposed variance to a [Land Use Bylaw] standard they might be refused or may have to go through the variance process.”

In addition to not being located within 100 metres of a provincial health care facility, 150 metres from an elementary school, and 300 metres from a high school, no more than three potential cannabis stores will be allowed within a 360 metre radius. In the downtown core, where Peaceleaf plans to open, stores must be more than 180 metres away from each other.

“Residents may be receiving notices that there’s a proposed retail outlet in their area,” says Johnson. “The development permits will be processed in advance of the legalization date, which is October 17th, however, they will not be able to open and operate until the federal legislation comes through.”

The city will start working with the prospective business owners right away. City council will review the licence cap after one year. A full ranking of the applications can be found online.