In the early days of recreational marijuana legalization, NewLeaf Cannabis hopes to open five or six stores across Calgary.

Those retail outlets are planned to join another half dozen in Edmonton, Leduc and Lethbridge, with an ultimate target of 25 stores in eight different Alberta municipalities.

Angus Taylor, the company’s chief administrative officer, says NewLeaf did its homework well ahead of opening day, having real estate brokers find retail spaces averaging 1,500 square feet each that anticipated setback requirements, and signing leases early this year “before the frenzy.” The company focused on neighbourhoods rather than “cool” areas, and engaged with each, addressing any concerns with the objective of “being a good and welcome neighbour,” and avoiding appeals.

Its four-quadrant strategy in Calgary – which includes outlets in Southland, Midnapore, Varsity and Castleridge – reflects an expected customer base stretching from young adults to seniors, in all parts of the city.

“One in five Canadians is a regular user (of cannabis). This will bring traffic to a neighbourhood and, in the long term, drive real estate and business values around them.” – Angus Taylor, NewLeaf Cannabis chief administrative officer

NewLeaf’s stores are among 85 approved and released (meaning no appeal or an appeal was rejected) of 280 cannabis store applications received by the City of Calgary between April 24 (when the retail application process opened) and Sept. 21. There is a 21-day period of appeal from the initial ruling approving or refusing locations, and some appeals are already expected to stretch into February.

“We are not sure how many will be open Oct. 17,” said Brandy MacInnis, senior special projects officer with the City of Calgary. “But we are making sure we are helping applicants through the processes.”

Those processes include getting a provincial retail cannabis license, then a City development permit within a proper land-use area (which requires separation distances designed to limit the sale of cannabis near services such as schools, childcare, emergency shelters, hospitals and vacant school parcels, and near other cannabis stores), a building permit and a City business license.

MacInnis says city council was clear cannabis stores were not to be stigmatized – treated like any other legal retail business operation following City guidelines and legislation.

Most retail applications came for space in existing buildings, she says, with a few proposed for new buildings.

Taylor says there are many myths out there about the effects of cannabis stores on neighbourhoods, including that they depress the values of nearby properties. However, he says in Denver, where cannabis was legalized in 2014, property values around retailers went up eight per cent.

“One in five Canadians is a regular user (of cannabis). This will bring traffic to a neighbourhood and, in the long term, drive real estate and business values around them,” he said.