The owners of a Brandon smoke shop have received conditional approval to be among the city’s first licensed distributors of recreational cannabis.
Robert and Kim Ritchot own and operate B. O. B. Headquarters on 18thStreet in Brandon. The local entrepreneurs joined Tokyo Smoke (now Hiku Brands Company of British Columbia) in an application to retail cannabis in Manitoba. The provincial government approved their license last month alongside applications from three other companies.
Those commercial organizations include Delta 9 Cannabis Inc. and Canopy Growth Corp; National Access Cannabis; and a numbered Canadian corporation that includes the involvement of Ontario’s Avana Canada Inc., the Fisher River Cree Nation in Manitoba, the Chippewas of the Thames in Ontario, MediPharm Labs and American retailer Native Roots Dispensary.
“It’s still very, very early days,” Robert Ritchot said on Monday. “As a matter of fact, we still don’t know exactly how (the retail distribution system) is going to look. Right now, all of the approved applicants are helping the provincial government build up the framework about what it’s going to look like, what needs to be accomplished before legalization and what concerns will come up.”
As of this week, Ritchot had two potential locations in mind for the cannabis outlet, but no leases will be signed until the province establishes the new industry’s operational and regulatory framework. Ritchot says the stores will most likely be named Tokyo Smoke, the name of the partnering company that established Hiku Brands in January alongside the DOJA Cannabis Company.
The Manitoba Government intends to establish cannabis retail outlets within a 30-minute drive of 90 per cent of the province’s population. This would mean several outlets opening in communities or municipalities elsewhere in the Westman region as well.
“They haven’t given us exact numbers of how many stores we can open in each community, but that is something they are working on right now,” Ritchot said. “They have given examples of what may happen, such as having three or four stores in Winnipeg, one or two in Brandon and one in Portage. But that doesn’t mean all four retailers are going to open stores in each city.”
Another local applicant has been left outside of the burgeoning industry after his application was denied.
Rick Macl, the owner of Growers n’ Smokers – a hydroponic and marijuana accessories store in Brandon – applied for a license partnered with a company seeking to open about a dozen retail sales outlets throughout the province. He was disappointed to learn about the denial of his application, but has become philosophical about the decision in recent weeks.
“I submitted an EOI (expression of interest) in the fall, but by the time the (decisions were made), I didn’t want to be a dispenser,” he said.
Macl noticed that a gas station near his establishment had gone through several owners in recent years and wondered why they couldn’t stay in business.
“They sold gasoline, which the government controls and they made no money. They sold lottery tickets, which the government controls and they made no money. They made all their money off of bubble gum and chocolate bars,” Macl said. “If it’s that way for gas stations, why would the government allow any retailer to make money off cannabis. For me, I would hate to give up space in my store for something that I would not make a profit with.”
Despite not being approved for cannabis licensing, Macl plans to expand Growers n’ Smokers into more square footage he has obtained next to his current location. His business has helped almost 1000 people obtain medical prescriptions for cannabis since opening a year ago. He wants to continue down that path.
Meanwhile, he is motivated to educate others about marijuana, specifically as it pertains to its medical benefits. Macl completed a cannabis retail sales course and uses cannabis as medication for his own attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and chronic back pain.
“I’m here to provide information to ensure they develop legislation that is legitimate and truly effective in helping those who use cannabis both medically and recreationally,” he said, adding that he has been shooting and disseminating videos on Facebook on the subject. Some of them have found a captivated audience.
“At the end of the day, I’m looking out for me and looking out for the public because I’m telling the truth and explaining the realities about cannabis usage.”
Bill C-45, the legislation to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, was introduced in the House of Commons in April of last year. It currently sits for study in the Senate after receiving passing its second reading vote last Thursday.
Although it has met solid opposition from Conservative Senators, the bill is expected to become law before the end of September, 2018.