Amidst the griping and gnashing of teeth that is the red tape of the legal cannabis industry in B.C., a young entrepreneur in a small town seems to be bucking the trend.
Julia Middlebrook was granted a province of B.C. recreational cannabis sale licence on April 30, the 22nd licence of its kind to be issued in B.C. since legalization on Oct. 17, 2018.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Middlebrook told Global News from her shop in Creston, B.C.
She’s only 20-years-old, an age when many people are still trying to imagine what they’ll be when they grow up.
And while her social peers are stumbling over “adulting”, Middlebrook’s business peers are certainly impressed.
“I think people are a little bit shocked at first but they get used to it.”
Creston, a town of 5,300 people on Highway 3 just 10 kilometres north of the US border, fully supported Middlebrook’s application, as did the province, she said.
“It’s of course an intricate application process,” she said. “There’s a lot of steps to it, but I don’t see any blocks to that.”
She said she made the application with a little assistance from a bookkeeper.
Barriers have yet to pop up in Middlebrook’s cannabis venture, a head-shaking rarity considering other applications in numerous B.C. towns have been slowed by town councils, zoning and community backlash.
A Vernon applicant’s business location was recently vetoed by council due to protest by neighbourhood residents, mostly seniors.
WATCH BELOW: Dozens sign petition against cannabis shop near Vernon seniors’ complex
“I’ve had endless amounts of support from tons of people in Creston,” she gushes, humbly.
The Kootenay woman has had easy success with the licence application, the community, financial institutes and even her parents.
She boasts just a year of business school to help her start-up the shop.
Neither her age or being a woman have been a problem, she said.
“My age comes up in every business conversation that I have but it quickly turns into a normal business owner conversation.”
Her optimism overflows following her early success.
“I just had a feeling it would work out.”
“If you start off knowing that it’s going to work out and you work as hard as you can, it will. At anything.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes, I too wonder what she’s been smoking…. but then realize that’s a stupid question.)
Middlebrook stocks about 20 strains of cannabis in the Sticky Leaf Cannabis Shop, a storefront that she opened last June with bongs and other cannabis-smoking accessories.
“Just like any other recreational cannabis shop, it’s purchased through the Cannabis and Liquor Board directly,” she said of her cannabis supply. “That way it goes through the right quality controls so you know exactly what you’re getting every time.”
She helps clients choose their product based on how they’d like to feel from it and said there was ample information about cannabis online to get her started.
Her youthful exuberance shows in her posts on social media, something she’s now much more cautious about due to licencing regulations.
She believes she might be the youngest licencee in B.C., so far.
And when it comes to safety, Middlebrook assures her shop is outfitted with video surveillance as is required for all cannabis and liquor sales in B.C.
“I feel just as safe as an employee would feel in a liquor store,” she said.
The young cannabis retailer believes business across Canada will continue to trend upwards.
“I think there’s a lot of people against it because of the stigma that it had in the past,” said Middlebrook.
“I think that as the stigma goes down, of course, a lot of people are going to want to try it out.”
According to Stats Canada, during the first quarter of 2019, 646,000 cannabis users reported trying cannabis for the very first time.