Pro­po­nent pro­vides de­tails about pro­posed Swift Cur­rent cannabis re­tail store at pub­lic hear­ing

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Front Page - BY MATTHEW LIEBENBERG — mlieben­berg@prairiepost.com

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.

Photo by Matthew Liebenberg

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

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