The first new Manitoba cannabis retailer licensed since the province loosened regulatory COVID-19 restrictions in June plans to fill its shelves with legal pot products in just over a week.
As of June, there were 30 licensed cannabis stores in the province, but the Crown services minister announced in May Manitoba would open the market to all prospective retailers on June 1.
The Joint — an independent chain of head shops in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta headquartered out of Winnipeg — will open a cannabis shop section at its Portage Avenue location around Aug. 10 after it received authorization from the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba and the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation.
“Or as soon as the product ships,” said Ariel Glinter, the company’s business development and regulatory compliance director.
The company, which has six high-end head shops in Winnipeg, has been aiming to get into the legal cannabis market since cannabis was legalized federally in late 2018.
“This has always been a goal of ours,” said Kristine Randa, the Joint’s western territorial manager.
“Cannabis is a product that you need an accessory to consume it with — so, being able to go to one place to get everything you need is going to be a huge gamechanger, you don’t really see the accessory selection that we have at other cannabis stores as of now.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the retail business — with more online shopping and fewer people out shopping — but didn’t affect the company’s plans to move into the cannabis retail market alongside its booming pipe, bong and other cannabis accessory business as soon as it could.
“Obviously, just like any other retail business, COVID’s been very difficult for us… we are working continuously, keeping up with all of our safety protocols and procedures to help protect our customers and our staff,” said Randa.
“But the most difficult part has been waiting for the licensing to open up, so we’ve been kind of on our toes waiting for our opportunity to come.”
Crown Services Minister Jeff Wharton said in May the move to open the cannabis market would play a role in the province’s economic recovery following the pandemic.
The Portage Avenue store — the chain’s largest — was chosen as the first store to be licensed, though the company plans to convert all of its Winnipeg stores to dual head shop-cannabis retail shops.
“We’ve had to do a bunch of upgrades to the store, making sure our security measures are up to standard and training staff too,” Randa said.
All cannabis retailers are required to have age-restricted entrances.
Meanwhile, Randa and Glinter aren’t concerned about increased competition as other retailers obtain licenses.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of people who are trying to get licenses to be able to sell cannabis legally in the market here in Manitoba — fortunately, we have that existing relationship with the cannabis community here,” Randa said.