What felt like a distant dream to Ontario cannabis lovers will be a reality in two weeks.
The province is preparing to launch its first wave of brick-and-mortar marijuana stores on April 1, trailblazing a path for private entrepreneurs to sell the now-regulated product in a new way.
The Canadian government made buying online a thing, but there’s nothing like the visceral experience of walking into a marijuana shop.
“There’s going to be all kinds of bumps and challenges … but you can’t touch, smell, or feel online,” says Spiritleaf CEO Darren Bondar, who plans to open 40 cannabis locations across Ontario. “Cannabis concierges can provide product knowledge and everything you’d want in a retail experience.”
Product education is crucial at the infancy of legalization in Canada, as cannabis brands begin battling for market share and relevancy in the industry.
That’s one thing we expect to see from brick-and-mortar stores. Another is the overall experience of buying weed legally, and the death of illegal dispensaries. Illegal dispensaries have buyers feeling uneasy, and no one wants to meet a dealer at a sketchy meeting spot.
“Customers from all walks of life can come in and shop, enjoy and learn and be part of the new cannabis movement,” Bondar says.
“I think the day of the illegal dispensary is probably over. Those who want to join the legal industry has taken steps to do so. The illegal ones aren’t going to last for much longer.”
The third change Ontarians can expect to see is a shift of their favourite coffee shops to cannabis cafes. Second Cup, for example, will turn certain high-traffic franchises from their pool of 130 stores into cannabis retail stores on April 1, in partnership with the National Access Cannabis Corp.
“Our strategic alliance with National Access Cannabis allows Second Cup to leverage our real estate assets to increase value for our franchisee partners and our shareholders while maintaining focus on our primary objective of being the specialty coffee brand of choice across Canada,” said Garry Macdonald, Second Cup’s President & CEO.
“NAC has developed a strong reputation as a leading operator in the cannabis industry and the opportunity to activate our partnership in Ontario, Second Cup’s largest region, is a strong growth opportunity for our two businesses.”