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Alberta diving into marijuana business as legalization approaches

Though no firm date has been set federally for cannabis users to spark up legally, already nearly 600 applications for marijuana licenses have been received by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC).

Applications to be a private retailer in Alberta only opened March 6.

With that, more than 500 people have already signed up for the SellSafe program, the mandatory training course set up by the AGLC for people looking for employment in the province’s cannabis industry.

And the AGLC, the provincial body overseeing the roll out of Alberta’s cannabis industry, expects it will only ramp up.

“Given the amount of interest that we’ve had in the licensing application phase… we’ll see an increase in that amount (of SellSafe applicants),” said Kaleigh Miller, spokeswoman for the AGLC.

“Some people wanted to get a head start and that’s why we offered it.”

Miller said the program will take people between two and four hours to complete and is very similar in nature to the other courses, like the ProServe Liquor Training course for employees in the liquor service industry.

Cannabis companies, like Calgary’s 420 Premium Market, were among the early adopters of the SellSafe course, with all of their executives having taken the course.

“Education has always been extremely important for our company and our brands, just to help the community and the consumer understand cannabis,” said Amber Craig, vice-president of marketing for 420.

“We wanted to take the test very early on to understand what the level of training was from the AGLC so we knew how to implement more in-depth training for our employees.”

Miller describes the course as a series of modules, with reading, refresher questions and is interactive. It covers a lot of basic knowledge that covers responsible sales, ID’ing clientele and any risks for cannabis-related harms.

That was quite basic for Craig, who said the content is very similar to the ProServe course.

“I felt that this test was relatively similar, in terms of you don’t need to know a lot about the product to pass the test,” said Craig.

“It’s very common-sense sort of questions. It was not very in-depth with the actual cannabis product knowledge and that’s the information we value highly in customer service.”

Alberta is the first province to have this program in place and it’s going to be used in at least two more provinces, with others looking at it. Miller said that in an ideal world, all of these programs would be similar so that employees trained in the program could qualify for inter-provincial employment.

Once the legalization date is set, Miller believes they’ll see a spike in both SellSafe applications and, of course, licensing applications.

“We anticipate that closer to legalization we’ll start to see these numbers go through the roof,” Miller said.

The 420 Premium Market has several license applications in for recreational marijuana retail locations, with 10 planned locations in Calgary alone, Craig noted.