Gabriola, Charlees Angel and White Shark are just some of the strains that will be available at Vancouver Island’s first government-operated cannabis store.
Two doors down from Starbucks at Campbell River’s Discovery Harbour Shopping Centre, the BC Cannabis store officially opened its doors to the public Wednesday morning.
For Campbell River resident, Sanjay Srivastava, the opening of the government-operated shop is welcome.
“I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time,” he said.
Srivastava was one of about a dozen people that were lined up outside the store shortly before opening.
With a painful back injury, Srivastava said he had been driving to Coombs or up to Port Hardy to buy cannabis, which he said helps control his pain.
Kevin Satterfield, director of retail operations, cannabis operations said they’re happy to be in Campbell River.
“It’s really exciting to be in this community and we’re looking forward to being open today.”
The Campbell River location is just the fourth of the government-operated brick and mortar stores to open in the province. Cranbrook, located in the mountain daylight time zone, narrowly beat out the Island location as the third in the province. The first BC Cannabis store opened in Kamloops last fall. The second location to open was also in Kamloops.
The store’s frosted windows feature a forested mountainscape and no product is visible from the outside.
To even enter the store, you must show two pieces of ID proving you’re not a minor.
Even if minors are accompanied by an adult, they won’t be allowed into the store, Satterfield said, which is a major difference from provincially-operated liquor stores.
So what makes BC Cannabis different from private retailers across the province?
“We really focus on information and education for the consumers so they’re aware of what they’re buying and what we sell,” said Satterfield.
The first thing you see upon entering is what Satterfield calls the social responsibility wall. The headings “Start low, go slow; Keep cannabis away from youth; and Don’t drive High” look down at you as you wait to get your IDs checked.
On other walls, there’s information about what to know before you buy, plant anatomy, plant types, the differences between THC and CBD, and terpenes, which determine the physical effects of the product.
The store is open, airy and bright with all counters around hip-level.
“When you walk into the store, you can see everything right away,” said Satterfield. “Everything is at a low profile so we can see it.”
All the products in front of the point of sale systems are locked up. Customers can write on note cards the SKU and quantity of the products they want. There’s even a column for notes. You’ll take your card up to the counter and an employee will grab the product for you.
Prices start at $5.99 for one gram of dried flower and increase from there depending on the quantity and quality of the bud.
The store is organized by plant type. All the indica strains are located together, while sativa strains, hybrids and high CBDs are in different spots. A premium bud table is located off to the side with even more options.
Signage will indicate if a strain is locally grown.
Each bud is located in its own glass jar complete with a magnifying glass and an aromatic plug.
“If you’re looking to buy something that has limonene in it for example,” said Satterfield, “You’re going to smell that lemon smell as you go through.”
While the store’s cannabis consultants won’t recommend any products for consumers, they are on hand to offer education and walk people through the different types of products available.
“We want to try and direct them to the education wall and the information wall so they understand the product and what they’re looking for and then they’ll go and just explore the different buds on the table,” he said.
To start, the Campbell River location will have 84 unique strains available, with more on the way.
“We chose these 84 to begin with because they seem to be the best-sellers within the communities we’re in right now,” said Satterfield.
With nearly 150 different strains that BC Cannabis has access to, another 12 are expected to be added to the location eventually.
The store offers a range of products approved by Health Canada including oils and capsules, as well as dried flower and pre-rolls. Accessories are also available.
While some private cannabis stores already operate on the Island in Port Hardy and Victoria, Campbell River is the first Vancouver Island city to have a BC Cannabis store.
More private shops should be on their way soon. Muse Cannabis is slated to open in Willow Point this summer, while another private retailer has secured its license from the city and is currently being reviewed by the province.