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Lori Stickles with Cannabis NB and Chris Jones with Cannabis Xpress. Image: Alex Graham

First private sellers enter N.B. cannabis market

By Scott Pettigrew Jun 15, 2023 | 12:00 PM

New Brunswick’s first private cannabis shop has opened in Grand Bay-Westfield, ushering in a new era for Cannabis NB’s strategy for the sector.

“This was always part of the plan,” says Lori Stickles, president and CEO of Cannabis NB. “We were really glad when we were able to move forward, get the RFPs out. It took a bit longer than we had planned but we’re really excited about today.”

Cannabis Xpress, located at 441 Woolastook Drive opened for customers on Wednesday morning.

This store is the first among many private retailers slated to open in the year ahead. Other private stores slated to open soon include Cost Cannabis in Blackville, Cost Cannabis in Bouctouche, and Green Timber Cannabis in Chipman. There are nine private stores in total slated to open this year.

Customers were at the ready on Wednesday morning, eager to see what the Cannabis Xpress had to offer, joking amongst themselves that the publicly sanctioned, privately owned dispensary had “rolled out the green carpet” for their business.

This is not Cannabis Xpress founder Chris Jones’s first foray into the sector. The Ontario-based entrepreneur has 14 cannabis stores in that province, mostly in smaller communities. He says New Brunswick’s approach of being more thoughtful about the interaction and proximity of private store locations and Cannabis NB locations was a formula he believes would support his success.

“The plan was always to stay in Ontario because I do so much of the work myself and it’s challenging to duplicate that to expand to another place,” he says. “I’ve looked at Alberta, Manitoba, BC and it’s just still very saturated. The amount of work and time didn’t really make sense.”

“We looked at areas of the province where we felt there were gaps, and opportunities to put stores in,” Stickles says of the choices of locations for private cannabis sellers. “So that’s where we chose the original 10 locations.”

She says Cannabis NB wants the private retailers to be successful and that’s why it’s purposefully choosing the locations at this point. One of the original locations,  Belledune, did not find a suitable offer and likely the RFP will go back up at a later date, Stickles says. The private locations are in addition to the farmgate locations Cannabis NB also started this year.

Jones’s experience in Ontario has provided an education leading him to choose New Brunswick as his next destination for expansion.

“I came across online, the RFP that was issued for the [privately owned] stores,” Jones says. “I’ve applied for RFPs before, it took maybe a month of working on it to get the applications submitted. And then just before Christmas, I got a phone call.”

Having won the right to apply for several of the locations, Jones decided where he wanted to concentrate his efforts and focused on the southern New Brunswick market. He has plans to open two more locations in the months ahead, one in Hampton and one in Saint Andrews. He says population density, proximity to each other, and proximity to an airport were some of his key criteria, as he will be continuing to live in Ontario while running these locations.

“I think the biggest challenge I found out here versus Ontario was just finding real estate, places to rent,” he confides. The Cannabis X Grand Bay location was a former veterinary clinic.

“I did have to spend a significant amount of time finding a team here. In Ontario, it’s much easier [to start a new store] because I already have a sign company, I already have a contractor….It took time to set up that infrastructure here, but now that we have it our second store will be much easier.”

Jones says the licensing process in New Brunswick is very similar to that of Ontario, and of course, what he’s able to sell in terms of cannabis will be all within the rules of other Cannabis NB stores.

“All of the cannabis products [we sell] have to be from Cannabis NB,” he says. “When it comes to accessories like rolling papers, lighters, bongs, batteries, clothing, grinders can be from anyone.”

That being said, Jones notes that there are many licensed producers here in Atlantic Canada that he wasn’t aware of via his stores in Ontario.

“There are really cool things that we’re excited about doing here that we can’t do back home,” he says. “There’s more east coast LPs [licensed producers] that sell products here, versus in Ontario.  It’s nice to get a more diverse product assortment.”

“I love the Cannabis NB does bundles of products …. The 3.5 grams they sell as part of a bundle. I would love to do that in Ontario.”

Now that private sellers are in the mix, Cannabis NB had to come up with a unique way to identify legitimate sellers. Their solution is the badge system.

“Part of this badging is really to help customers understand the difference between a private store that’s selling legal product versus a store that’s illegal,” Stickles says. Since the legitimate private stores will not be branded as Cannabis NB, they will be required to display a “badge” in addition to their licenses, in an easy-to-see spot in the store for people to examine.

“We’re going to have the badging on the doors as well as inside,” she explains. “You scan this,” she says pointing to a QR code in the middle of the badge.

That takes you to the Cannabis NB site with information about this store, proving its authenticity.

Alex Graham is a reporter with Huddle, an Acadia Broadcasting content partner.


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