Shawn Hope is the owner of Rise Cannabis, Moose Jaw’s newest cannabis store. He owned a Pita Pit in the city for 20 years and after selling that location he saw the opportunity — but it isn’t easy or straightforward to open a cannabis storefront.
“I ended up getting my permit for Regina,” Hope explained. “But there’s just so much stuff going on there that it is really hard in Regina, so I came back to Moose Jaw.”
A major concern when it comes to the legalization of cannabis in Canada is ensuring that the product and everything associated with it are not marketed to youth. Advertising of cannabis products where someone under the legal age might see that advertisement is strictly off-limits, which is why age-gating has become the norm.
[Editor’s note: advice on the effects of ingesting cannabis and other legal recreational drugs should be obtained only from qualified medical professionals. This publication takes no position one way or another on the use of such substances.]
“They have buffer zones so that you can’t have stores too close to each other,” Hope said. The zones also include any area that young people might frequent — and the store cannot be visible from that area either.
The initial location lottery was won by the franchises, putting them at the top of the list for prime spots.
“For example,” Hope said, “the (Moose Jaw Events Centre). I was four or five feet away from the red circle for that building. So, I wouldn’t be allowed into the unit next door.”
Libraries, public walking paths, schools, and more are also on the distancing list.
Retailers are also prohibited from using free samples, advertising any medical or nutritional benefit, giveaways, contests, attractive signage, or associating cannabis with a glamorous or exciting lifestyle.
Regular inspections of video footage from the store counter ensure that ID is being checked for every person, every time.
“Like I said, I had a Pita Pit for 20 years in town. I know a lot of people and I had a lot of loyal customers,” Hope said. “I know a lot of people don’t even know I’m here, though, and that’s because you can’t advertise. Nothing on the radio, no billboards, can’t do anything.”
Hope doesn’t mind, however. He’s confident that as an independent store, run by enthusiasts who have taken the time to become experts, he’ll build a loyal base over time.
His focus is on helping customers make informed decisions, although his staff steer clear of offering medical advice. Many of the products they stock are either low in psychoactive ingredients or don’t contain any at all, meaning they won’t induce the high usually associated with the plant.
Non-psychoactive cannabis products are currently being intensely researched to determine their clinical value.
One thing the Hope and his staff are all quite proud of is its terpene guide — produced in-house by the store manager. Terpenes are naturally-occurring compounds found in many plants and some animals. They are responsible for the flavour and aroma of most plants, including cannabis.
Hope explained that research is showing that the wide variation in effects from the numerous different strains of the plant is due more to the terpene combination the strain contains than from whether it is an indica, sativa, or hybrid — the definitions most people are familiar with.
Other features Hope anticipates might give him a business edge are his generous return policies for sub-standard product — there’s no expiry dates on cannabis in Saskatchewan and Manitoba —, his sourcing of craft- rather than bulk-produced flower, and weekly ordering. The weekly, country-wide ordering allows Rise Cannabis to source almost any product a customer specifically requests.
“We’re here to build relationships and help people,” Hope said. “There’s still a stigma, but if people are finding that it helps them, then why shouldn’t they be using it? You know what I mean? If it works for them, then why not?”