Shaun Baid, an accountant who was laid off last year amid the energy sector downturn, is now working with three partners to open a cannabis retail store in Calgary, Alta.

New entrepreneur Shaun Baid is feeling excited about his prospects these days. Mr. Baid, a Calgary accountant who was laid off last year amid the energy sector downturn, is now working with three partners to open a cannabis retail store.

“It’s super exciting times, all across the country, but especially here in Alberta,” said Mr. Baid, chief financial officer of Kush Collective. “It feels like Alberta is where this whole gold rush is going to happen.”

That’s because Alberta’s NDP government has adopted a private model for cannabis retailers, following in the footsteps of the province’s private liquor retail model. (Online cannabis sales will be government-run in Alberta.)

In preparation for the federal government’s legalization of marijuana later this year, other provinces, like Ontario and Quebec, have announced government-operated storefronts, or, as is the case in British Columbia, a mix of government-run and private shops.

By May 8, just over two months after the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission (AGLC) started accepting applications for retail licences, it had received 533 applications.

Neighbouring Saskatchewan has also opted for a private model, with a limit of 51 retail cannabis permits available. No cap exists in Alberta, but no single person or entity can hold more than 15 per cent of retail licences in the province.

Mr. Baid and other prospective retailers face a comprehensive application process that includes background checks, upfront fees and municipal approvals, which vary from place to place. In Calgary, for example, a development permit, building permit and business licence are required.

But for Mr. Baid, the biggest challenge so far has been securing real estate. As Alberta’s private retail model woos entrepreneurs and bigger businesses from across the country, Mr. Baid found some landlords wouldn’t deal with a small firm like his seeking one bricks-and-mortar store.

Toronto cannabis retailer Fire & Flower relocated its headquarters to Edmonton in February. Fire & Flower has applied for 37 cannabis store licences in Alberta, the maximum currently allowed, and plans to open stores in every province where private shops are permitted.

Moving to the provincial capital positioned Fire & Flower in “one of the municipalities that was the furthest ahead in the province that was…