Kingston cannabis hope­fuls gear up to com­pete

Kingston Whig-Standard - - FRONT PAGE - EL­LIOT FER­GU­SON

A qual­ity prod­uct at a good price is how com­pa­nies hop­ing to open cannabis stores in Kingston plan to com­pete.

Kingston city coun­cil voted unan­i­mously early Wednesday morn­ing to al­low pri­vate re­tail cannabis stores to open.

On Fri­day, the pro­vin­cial govern­ment is to hold a lot­tery to dis­trib­ute the first 25 re­tail cannabis li­cences.

The stores are ex­pected to be ready to open by April 1, and Jen­nawae McLean of 420 Kingston said hav­ing good qual­ity cannabis for a good price is how those stores will sur­vive.

But to sur­vive in the new brick­sand-mor­tar re­tail mar­ket, any store in Kingston would need to com­pete against dozens of stores that have opened in Tyen­d­i­naga Mo­hawk Ter­ri­tory, less than an hour’s drive away along High­way 401. Those stores have been op­er­at­ing for a cou­ple of years out­side of the prov­ince’s reg­u­la­tory sys­tem.

“Def­i­nitely by hav­ing good va­ri­ety, which means sup­ply needs to be worked on, by hav­ing good price points and by hav­ing a very high qual­ity of cannabis,” McLean said Wednesday morn­ing, shortly af­ter city coun­cil’s mid­night vote.

The pro­vin­cial govern­ment is lim­it­ing the num­ber of cannabis re­tail li­cences to 25, in part be­cause the sup­ply of cannabis is not great enough to al­low more re­tail­ers.

McLean said some of the com­pa­nies that win li­cences on Fri­day won’t be ready to open on April 1, so not winning a li­cence on Fri­day may not be the end of the line.

McLean said her com­pany has its fi­nanc­ing ready, busi­ness plan to­gether, its train­ing and staff hand­books pre­pared and a wes­t­end store­front al­ready rented.

“The wait­ing list will still be a hot place to be,” she said.

McLean said there are close to 600 com­pa­nies wait­ing for pro­duc­tion li­cences and more needs to be done to bring those pro­duc­ers into the sup­ply chain.

“It has to be all the way across the board. It doesn’t just start with us, be­cause we can only han­dle what we are al­lowed to buy. It starts with the fed­eral govern­ment choos­ing to li­cense more pro­duc­ers,” she said. “Le­gal sup­ply is a real is­sue.”

McLean’s em­pha­sis on qual­ity and price is how other re­tail­ers plan to com­pete, said Kim Wright, a pub­lic re­la­tions con­sul­tant for Al­berta-based Fire and Flower, which is look­ing to set up stores in mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties across On­tario, in­clud­ing Kingston.

“I think it goes down to en­sur­ing there is a high-qual­ity prod­uct and an avail­abil­ity of prod­uct, but also that per­sonal con­ver­sa­tion where peo­ple can feel com­fort­able go­ing in and un­der­stand­ing what they might be con­sum­ing,” said Wright, who spoke to city coun­cil Tuesday night about Fire and Flower’s busi­ness prac­tices.

“What is in­ter­est­ing is what peo­ple have been say­ing, [that] the OCS is great, the web­site is great, but they also want that brick­sand-mor­tar ex­pe­ri­ence. Peo­ple want to go into a store, they want to see the prod­uct, they want to un­der­stand the prod­uct and the var­i­ous types of prod­uct that are cur­rently in the mar­ket­place and that will be in the mar­ket­place come Oc­to­ber 2019.”

Wright told city coun­cil there is ex­pected to be strong growth in the ed­i­bles and con­sum­ables mar­ket at the ex­pense of tra­di­tional cannabis smok­ing.

EL­LIOT FER­GU­SON/THE WHIG-STAN­DARD

Kingston city coun­cil voted on Tuesday to al­low pri­vate-sec­tor re­tail cannabis stores in the city.

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