A Kamloops couple-turned-pioneer pot entrepreneurs opened the doors to the first private cannabis store on Friday morning, describing a store selling previously illegal products similar to that of a neighbourhood convenience store — a mom and pop shop.
The moment was many months, background checks and levels of government paperwork in the making, culminating with the hanging of a business licence on the wall at 399 Tranquille Rd. in North Kamloops.
“This is once in a lifetime,” Chris Lyth told KTW. “It’s not very often something like this comes along.”
Chris and Nadine Lyth are the duo behind The Shore Cannabiz Shop. Chris has a retail background in jewelry and Nadine is a retired Thompson Rivers University program assistant.
They began drumming up the possibility of getting into the burgeoning cannabis industry about a year ago, prior to legalization, and submitted an application to the province last August. Their application was then referred to the city, which went before city council in October and received opposition from a medical cannabis dispensary and its users across the street. Council, however, approved the store’s application.
While it had surpassed a major hurdle, given the opposition, the application had still not yet been approved. It then went back to the province, where final due diligence included intense checks into the couple’s background, in addition to staff background checks.
“It’s a really rigorous process,” Chris Lyth said. “You have to bare your soul.”
Several customers made their way into the 800-square-foot store after it opened on Friday morning. On offer is a variety of cannabis strains, from high THC to mid-range THC, CBD products, flower, oils, capsules, seeds, sprays and a small amount of accessories.
Customer Sarah Rhode lives in the neighbourhood and wanted to be one of the first customers, purchasing a gram of sativa. The longtime cannabis user liked the store’s selection. Asked about the prices, she said the cost is “familiar” to what she has experienced in the past.
“It’s good for me because I know what I’m getting and I can trust that I’m getting a good product, rather than stuff I’ve purchased before on the street,” she said.
Jakob Fehr has visited the government-owned BC Cannabis Store, which opened in the Columbia Place Shopping Centre in Sahali on legalization day, Oct. 17, and said The Shore Cannabiz Shop is a better location for him.
“Getting up there, it’s taking the bus,” Fehr said.
A handful of other applicants are awaiting provincial approval in the North Kamloops area. Kamloops council has thus far approved 15 cannabis stores, with many shops slated to open in the Tranquille corridor and downtown areas.
City property-use inspector Dave Jones noted applications are also beginning to come in for outlying areas. Cannabis stores have been approved by the city in Valleyview and in the Smart Centre strip mall in Southgate that has Walmart as its anchor.
Jones expects between 20 to 25 stores to eventually open in Kamloops.
“I would hope that maybe in March, April, May, kind of one a month will start opening up,” he said. “We have no idea until we hear from the province what’s happening.”
Chris Lyth said room remains in Kamloops’ cannabis industry.
“If you look at the liquor business here, there’s plenty of cold beer and wine stores and liquor stores in the city that work quite well together, so I don’t see much difference for cannabis stores,” he said.
ILLEGAL STORES REMAIN
Carl Anderson’s Canadian Safe Cannabis Society remains in operation across the street from The Shore Cannabiz Shop.
Jones said the store and many others have operated in the same capacity for many years and even helped to legalize cannabis. Now, though, Anderson’s shop is too close to The Shore Cannabiz Shop to become a legal recreational cannabis store.
City regulations stipulate cannabis stores must be at least 150 metres from one another.
“It’s unfortunate that Mr. Anderson across the street didn’t seek out a way to become a legalized cannabis store,” Jones said, it will be up to the province to determine if it will seek voluntary compliance from Anderson.
Jones said he will be speaking to the province about potential plans and any instructions given to the RCMP. Prior to legalization, Kamloops had 13 illegal stores, Jones said, with all but two closing. One has reopened under different branding.
“I’ll be paying those a visit,” he said. “I’ll be advising them that they need to cease operation.”