Supply shortages biggest concern facing budding Sask. cannabis industry

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Sask. cannabis industry preps for legalization
Saskatchewan's future cannabis retail stores are preparing for October 17, but there is industry wide concern about potential supply shortages early on. David Baxter reports. – Sep 18, 2018

With about a month until recreational cannabis is legalized, retail store permit holders across Saskatchewan are hard at work trying to get their stores ready to open on Oct. 17.

In Regina, Landyn Uhersky and his family received the keys to the future of their store Wiid Boutique (pronounced weed) on Monday.

“It feels really great to finally have the keys,” Uhersky said. “We were waiting on the Regina bylaw to be passed, and then after that we had to wait for our permit to be accepted where we’re not within a certain zone or too close to another cannabis retailer.”

After some delay due to not receiving unanimous support, the Regina pot bylaw was passed during the August meeting when a majority vote would be sufficient to pass it on third reading.

The plan for the Uhersky’s is to start “swinging hammers” at the 4500 block of Albert Street location on Wednesday.

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“We’re trying our best to be open on the 17th. In my project management spreadsheet right now we’re really close to that,” Uhersky said.

READ MORE: Smelling samples, cook books and no minimum price: what to know about Sask. pot stores

If there are any delays, Uhersky anticipates Wiid Boutique will be open within a week of Oct. 17 at the latest.

“We’re a locally owned, family run business and we want to keep that feel in the store as well,” Uhersky said.

The Uhersky family also owns Luminesque Lighting in Regina.

Prairie Sky becomes Jimmy’s

The former Prairie Sky Cannabis is set to open in four smaller communities, Martensville, Battleford, Estevan and Moosomin.

The Regina based business is now known as Jimmy’s Cannabis Shop. President John Thomas says the change was mostly due to trademark purposes.

Thomas and his brother David aim to have three of their stores open on Oct. 17. The Moosomin location will be delayed due to issues with the property.

In working with four different city and town councils, Thomas said it’s been a very positive process.

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“I think everyone’s a little unsure of the attitudes we’re going to receive with the legalization being so new,” Thomas said. “We think it’s really important to have good relationships with city and town councils and to be in the community.”

One drawback expressed by Thomas, as well as Uherski, is concern around a potential supply shortages.

“We think we’ve sorted out a lot of those issues, but it is a general concern throughout the industry,” Thomas said.

With limited suppliers and producers at the get go, Thomas is worried prices may be higher than eventual normal levels at first.

“The price that we’re charged and then has to be passed onto the consumer could be an issue, but having said that a big important thing is competition with the black market,” Thomas said.

Winter Harvest

Retailers appear to be comfortable with their initial supply outlook, despite shortage concerns. For Trevor Green, CEO of future cannabis producer OneLeaf Cannabis Corp., he sees the potential shortage as good for business.

“We’re projecting there’s going to be an undersupply for probably two or three years after legalization, and I think that will give small producers like us an opportunity to establish a foothold,” Green said.

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OneLeaf is currently building a 48,200 square foot cannabis production facility in the RM of Sherwood, just north of Regina. Green anticipates the first phase of the project will be complete in November or December.

“We’re hoping to produce before the end of the year. We’ll be starting the production process before the end of the year with the first harvest to occur in the first few months of 2019,” Green said.

READ MORE: Cannabis facility to be built on Saskatchewan First Nation

Late February or early March is the most likely timeframe the harvest will occur, Green added.

Currently OneLeaf does not have any distribution deals in place, but they are in talks with several other businesses and will finalize details once all permits are in place.

According to SLGA Minister Gene Makowsky, Saskatchewan has eight licensed producers, with around 10 more going through the approval process. Seven cannabis wholesalers are also going through the permitting process.

Welcome to Eden

Just outside Pilot Butte, off Highway 46, Allen Kilback anticipates his RM of Edenwold shop, the aptly named Eden, will be complete around Oct. 9 and will open on legalization day.

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Electrical work is being done at the shop, which will be followed by installing flooring, display cases, furniture and hiring employees.

“We have a director of security that we’ve hired who will look after overall security of the site,” Kilback said. “I’m surprised that we have numerous amount of applications for budtenders. So that part of it, we have people looking for work than we can offer.”

READ MORE: Saskatchewan’s marijuana hiring spree: can you get a job with a criminal record?

Kilback says the store will stock 15 strains of cannabis initially, along with a wide array of accessories; everything from pipes and bongs to cookbooks and shampoos.

Putting away the horse and bringing out the first vehicle with four wheels is the kind of change Kilback likened the budding market too. However, he doesn’t know if it will be the gold rush some analysts predict.

“There’s a lot of unknowns in the industry. I think we, as in the government, SLGA, our local RM, we’re all learning together. And I think being open, transparent and communicating with everybody is what’s worked well for us,” Kilback said.

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