Proponent provides details about proposed Swift Current cannabis retail store at public hearing
A public hearing for the proposed development of a cannabis retail store in downtown Swift Current took place during a regular council meeting, Sept. 28.
Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) allocated permits for two cannabis retail stores in Swift Current.
Celeste Gerber of Dreamweavers Cannabis Products Inc. made a presentation during the public hearing about a proposed cannabis retail store at 106 Central Avenue North.
“Prior to 2016 I really didn't have any experience with cannabis and then I was diagnosed with cancer, and so my life completely changed at that point,” she said.
She received radiation and chemotherapy treatment, and decided to look for an alternative to deal with the side effects of the treatment.
“They do give you drugs for the pain and for the nausea, but they really made me completely loopy,” she recalled. “I just couldn't function. So I said I'm going to try this and see how it helps. Honestly, it was like the sky opened up and rained happiness down on me, because all of a sudden I could think clearly, the nausea had gone, I didn't have any pain and I was like, this is wonderful stuff. So I became an instant convert.”
She decided to apply for a cannabis retail store permit when SLGA started a two-phase request for proposal process in March.
“At that point my husband and I said that was a good opportunity for us to give back to the community at large, and to further educate people and to help people,” she mentioned.
Their intention is to have an information centre in their proposed store to provide information about cannabis.
“Our shop will provide a place where consumers can buy safe and unaltered products at fair prices,” she said. “It's going to be a high-end shop with lots of modern features, good lighting and that sort of thing.”
She emphasized their proposed store will be quite different from the way these stores have been portrayed on television, with glass jars filled with cannabis buds on store counters for clients to pick from. In reality, her store will have to comply with very specific regulatory requirements for retail operations.
“Everything that comes to us has to be in a sealed package,” she said. “We're not allowed to open up the packages and sell it like that to anybody. It's the same as if you went to a liquor store. You don't open a bottle of rum and then say I'll take a glass full of this or a glass full of that. It's not that way at all. Packages all come pre-sealed with the Saskatchewan excise tax on them, they're child proof and they're a very nondescript sort of thing, and we're not allowed to open them up at all.”
Retailers will be allowed to have sniff jars in their stores to give consumers an opportunity to look at the products they are considering to buy.
“They're clear plastic with a lid on them that has holes in it so that they can smell it, but those holes can be sealed up,” she said. “So the shop isn't going to smell. That's the only time that you're allowed to open those. There's not going to be any smoking permitted in the store at all and nor outside. ... Cannabis at this time is only permitted to be used in private residences. Of course, age restrictions are in effect and they will be strictly enforced in our store.”
She estimated the proposed store will provide full-time employment to four to six people. All staff will be required to take a provincial training course that provides guidance on the safe selling of cannabis to consumers.
“Our point of sale software will automatically track purchase amounts and limit the amount daily to a maximum of 30 grams, which is outlined by SLGA,” she said. “In accordance with federal and provincial laws, our windows will be screened in such a manner to prevent viewing into our store so that you can't see products.”
Gerber believes the proposed retail store will be a benefit to the downtown business community in Swift Current.
“We feel that our business will help refresh the downtown core, because it's a destination store,” she said. “There will be another proponent, but locally there isn't going to be any other stores in the surrounding communities. So therefore we feel that it will drive traffic to the downtown and help boost the economy that way.”
Nobody attended the public hearing to speak against the proposed cannabis retail store, but the City of Swift Current received two letters of concern from local businesses. Garry Koebel of the Sputtergotch Toy Company questioned the appropriateness of a cannabis retail store in the downtown business area.
“While I provide no judgement on the business model itself, I do question how this fits with the overall downtown development plan and the objectives this plan has made,” he wrote. “Will this shop enhance the 'feel' the City wants for the heritage district? Is this a business model that will tie in well with other established shops, such as children's stores, higher end boutiques, and professional offices? Is this the message downtown Swift Current wishes to project?”
He believes there are other city locations that are more appropriately zoned for this type of business.
“I personally feel the site location for this shop will not enhance the direction the downtown core has been working towards for the past several years,” he said in the letter. “And judging from discussions I have had with other business owners and customers, my concerns are not unwarranted.”
Another letter of concern was submitted by Mohamed Abdelhamed and Donna Remple, owners of three businesses including a downtown auto detailing business. They are worried about the impact of the proposed cannabis store on property values for resale.
“I was told that the value of the property would increase, but how can this happen and how is this to relate to the fact that future buyers might turn away if a marijuana outlet was [located] across the back aisle?” they wrote. “Would you locate next door? I would certainly take a good hard second look and think I could throw it into getting a cheaper purchase price.”
They also raised other concerns, including potential parking congestion, the storefront appearance of the proposed cannabis retail store, the appropriateness of such a business in the downtown area, and a potential increase in property crime in the downtown area.
“Is the marijuana outlet that wants to locate behind us, going to have paid security guards and camera in the front and back aisle to not only protect themselves, but their neighbours,?” they wrote. “Has the City of Swift Current set some prerequisites as to their security responsibilities?”
Councillors will make a decision on this discretionary use application to develop a cannabis retail store at the next regular council meeting on Oct. 9.
TO NO AVAIL: New staff and teacher interns try to hang on during a tug of war against shop teachers at the Welcome Back assembly at the Swift Current Comp on Sept. 27