It’s going to be later this summer before Rosslanders can walk down Columbia Avenue and buy cannabis from a local retailer.
“Every month I think, ‘I bet it’ll be next month,’” laughs Jeff Weaver. “So based on my previous betting, I’d say July or August, and August is the best-case scenario.”
Weaver is the manager of Jimmy’s Cannabis Shop, the only recreational dispensary approved to date by Rossland city council.
He’s spent the last few weeks renovating the interior of an historic storefront, and is now awaiting word he and his business partners have passed their security and fitness checks from the province.
“When we get that email I can bring an inspector in right away,” he explains. “Then we’ll get conditional approval. Then it’s more the logistics of opening a retail store — getting the point-of-sale system up, hiring and training staff, etc.”
“But you need conditional approval before you can order products, and you need product here in order to train your staff. So I’d say after we get conditional approval we’ll be about a month away.”
Some retailers have complained about the byzantine and opaque process for getting retail licences, but Weaver is stoic about the delays.
“We don’t know where we stand, they don’t give you any information,” he says. “But that’s dealing with government regulation. You deal with the same thing with government when you’re trying to open a bar or restaurant.
“It takes the system time to process applications. You have to be patient and do it right.”
Weaver’s hoping his company is doing it right. He’s managing four potential Jimmy’s stores in the Kootenays — in Cranbrook, Creston, Castlegar, and Rossland — and is looking at possible Jimmy’s shops in other centres.
The company just sold its interest in four licences in Saskatchewan to another retailer, but Weaver says that deal won’t affect Jimmy’s business plans in B.C.
“We have four stores planned now, and would like to get to eight in B.C.,” he says. “But right now we are focusing on the Kootenays.”
Weaver’s confident of his business’ chances for success.
He operated Rossland’s only grey-market dispensary before legalization, successfully navigating between local government, police, and the demand for cannabis products when they were still illegal.
And he says the company has been prudent with its spending, and has picked out great locations in the four Kootenay communities.
Competition is beginning to appear — in Castlegar, he’ll be up against against four other cannabis retailers, all of whom should be open well before Jimmy’s.
But Weaver says it shouldn’t matter too much that they’re not in those markets first.
“I firmly believe when you get in the market, customer service is important, parking and high traffic areas are what set locations apart,” he says. “And all our four locations are the best in each community we’re in.
“So as frustrating as it is to be delayed, when we hit the ground I think we’re going to have at least as good a chance as anyone else at succeeding.”