By Breanne Massey
Special to the Pioneer
After the nation legalized cannabis more than a year ago, the Columbia Valley has seen support from the community grow.
Blooming World Cannabis and, soon, the Invermere Cannabis Store have been pioneering the recreational retail cannabis business in the Valley. To get a sense of how each business is evolving its operations over time, the Pioneer reached out
to the entrepreneurs to hear their perspectives.
Blooming World Cannabis
Blooming World Cannabis was the first recreational cannabis retailer to open its doors in the Columbia Valley.
The District of Invermere (DOI) approved the proposal for business in January 2019 after Blooming World’s chief executive officer Oliver Hogue and general manager Marjorie Fournier had successfully fielded questions and concerns from the community at a public hearing the previous week.
With eight months of experience under their belts, the duo agrees business has been blooming.
“There (are) customers from every group’s age, over 19 of course,” Ms. Fournier wrote to the Pioneer via e-mail. “Also, a lot of the seniors come in for the oil, and they can enjoy the senior discount.”
But the most sought after update the community has been requesting, Ms. Fournier says, is about the federal government’s amended regulations to the Cannabis Act. It came into play on October 17th and will result in a range of selected products to appear in the store soon. Canadians can expect cannabis edibles, concentrates and topicals to be available around in December.
“It will take some time for the product to get it in the store… and we are very excited to offer all those new products,” she added.
Blooming World Cannabis has been working toward providing incentives to clear up misconceptions about its products within the community. That means they’ve been providing recommendations on products, education about usage and incentives to buy from regulated operators as opposed to the black market.
“Licensed producers have to use regulated products to grow. (It’s) much safer than buying it on the black market and not knowing what was used through the growing process,” said Ms. Fournier. She added that they are working to offer lower prices and discounts to deter people from shopping on the black market.
“We also offer education and feedback on the product, with our selection of over 100 strains. There are a lot of options to choose from.”
For others in the community, the impact to the environment has been flagged as the packaging in the Cannabis industry at-large has been scrutinized. However, Blooming World Cannabis is working toward finding alternatives to mitigate those impacts.
“Health Canada put regulations on packaging,” Ms. Fournier explained when asked about this issue. “Packaging is recyclable. Some is also made of compostable material. You can recycle it on your own, or we encourage our customers by (offering a discount) to bring it back to the store and we send it back to the producers. They use it again, or they use it in a program, for example, to make playgrounds in parks. The packaging will change with time, but producers are now aware of the extreme amount of packaging, and there is talk of a compostable hemp pouch that might revolutionize the plastic industry.”
The appeal of working in a fast-moving industry with lots of changes continues to motivate the duo on striving for diverse products in a newly evolving field.
Invermere Cannabis Store
The Invermere Cannabis Store is the newest addition to the recreational cannabis business in the Valley.
The Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) directors approved the proposed shop opening at their regular council meeting in February 2019.
Owner and operator Ryan Haynes and his silent partner are targeting an early-November opening date at the Crossroads for The Invermere Cannabis Store.
“I think B.C. has been slow as far as getting authorized retailers out there, but I think they’re improving,” Mr. Haynes said about the process.
“The other retailer was in right away and he did a good job… overall in the province, it’s been a struggle to get these stores up off the ground.”
When asked about the application process, Mr. Haynes replied: “The application is intense: the financial and security screening. They dig deep, which is great.”
He added it is expensive to acquire the licence, averaging around $20,000 for a Recreational Retail Cannabis Licence in the province.
However, Mr. Haynes believes it is an exciting, worthwhile investment to try something new.
“Responsible sale is the goal,” he explained. “There’s been a lot of interest and a lot of curious people asking questions since legalization was passed. People are interested, open and honest.”
At this stage, Mr. Haynes has not experienced any misconceptions from the public about legalization and he is looking forward to opening the doors of his new shop.