Opening doors on legal pot

The first government-run cannabis retail store in the province is set to open in Kamloops next Wednesday, but the store will be stocked with less than half the strains of cannabis initially hoped for.

After a busy eight months of planning, the government is opening the doors on the recreational dispensary the day cannabis becomes federally legalized, on Oct. 17.

“This is something that we were tasked with in February,” said Viviana Zanocco, manager of communications with the BC Liquor Distribution Branch, which is tasked with distributing recreational cannabis in the province.

“To have even just one store, you need financial systems, business systems, how do you record these items, how do you get the product to the stores, what does the store look like? We've never been in the cannabis business, so we had to look at the design of other stores in other jurisdictions.”

While the province initially hoped to offer more than 150 strains of cannabis on opening day, Zanocco says they'll be offering closer to 70 strains next week.

“A lot of licensed producers are not meeting their commitments to us,” she said, adding they hope to increase their product diversity from smaller producers in coming months.

“It'll be nice to get a lot of those premium growers online, where you can buy product from them and supply our stores and private retailers.”

In addition to dried cannabis, oils and seeds, the store will be selling other paraphernalia like rolling papers, pipes and bongs, but the product won't be out in the open.

“You're not going to pick up a basket and go around,” Zanocco said. “Once you get in the store, there's going to be a lot of information, there'll be the product menus and those kinds of things.... You'll have to tell somebody what you want, and then you'll line up and somebody will prepare your order for you.”

Being the first legal recreational retail cannabis store in B.C., they're preparing for a busy morning on Oct. 17.

“I think there's going to be a lot of curiosity at the store, quite frankly. I think people are going to be wanting to see what it looks like and just be a part of history,” she said. “It is history-making, this whole new era that we're bringing in, in terms of legal cannabis.”

The province picked Kamloops as the location due to the city council's preparedness on regulations.

“We didn't have to apply for anything special like rezoning and we didn't have to go to public hearings, so for us that was good, because it allowed us to get started more quickly,” Zanocco said.

Retail cannabis stores are not expected to begin opening their doors in Kelowna until late spring or early summer of 2019.

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