Rural Leaf logo (Facebook photo)

Trying to open the door on Smithers pot retail

Three Bulkley Valley men look to open Smithers’ first cannabis store on Main Street.

Three Bulkley Valley men hope to open the first retail cannabis store in Smithers.

Alfred Schaefer, Peter Greene and Mike Abbot have applied to get provincial approval for Rural Leaf. If approved, they apply to the Town.

When all the paperwork is finally done, they hope to open up in the former Rudolph’s Sausage building on Main Street.

“For myself, it seems like a really great opportunity. It’s kind of an interesting moment, we’re taking something that was illegal and stigmatized for so long, and we’re really doing a common sense thing and realizing that it’s not actually that bad as long as it’s regulated and controlled,” said Schaefer.

“For me, that’s really exciting that the government’s actually responding to the people, listening to them and saying that this is actually not that big of a deal, and we can possibly generate some tax revenue off this and take it out of the hands of the black market. I find that all quite exciting and I wanted to be a part of it.”

Schaefer said he always wanted to own a business and believes there is enough of a population to make it work after looking at Statistics Canada’s national cannabis survey on how often people used marijuana products.

He acknowledged a big challenge will be competing with a black market that has yet to go away.

“Obviously there’s a price point there that we can’t really compete with, and I’m hoping that the provincial government kind of realizes over time how much revenue they’re losing by not being competitive with the black market,” said Schaefer.

The regulation of a legal product has important advantages, even with the pricing challenge — though at least the online shipping fee would not apply.

“There are a lot of people out there that would like to know that the cannabis they’re smoking has been tested and that there’s some quality assurance behind it. We’ve had these huge fentanyl scares coming the last couple years; knowing what you’re getting is not tainted by anything, I think that is definitely an ease of mind for a lot of people,” said Schaefer.

He added that any concerns should be tempered by the fact the cannabis industry is so heavily regulated. He explained some of the process in just applying for provincial approval.

“They asked me every single job I’ve had since I was 18; they looked at my bank statements for the last three or five years. Everything that’s getting this is going through the exact same thing. In a lot of ways, you have to be so transparent with the government about everything … You’ve got to think that’s keeping out a lot of the organized crime or criminal element,” said Schaefer, adding he believes it is more regulated than the liquor industry.

“Even just with the regulations, what we’re facing in terms of having a store, what we have to operate inside the store, it’s all very strict.”

He also touted the advantage of having a retail store in town for people who may not have partaken while the drug was illegal.

“Mike and I have definitely smoke our fair share of cannabis, so there is that. And I think that’s really it, talking to someone who has actually smoked cannabis and different types of cannabis. For instance, since it’s become legal I’ve been trying the different percentages of THC and CBD, and seeing what the differences are … I can give advice based on that,” said Schaefer.

“There’s definitely types of cannabis that are a lot stronger than other types, and there are some types that as far as the high goes, it’s pretty benign.”

Edibles are also scheduled to become legal this fall. How that will be regulated has still to be worked out, but Schaefer said he and his partners look forward to the chance of offering them in store.

“I think the edibles is a pretty exciting one because I know for lots of people, they don’t want to smoke anything … It’s kind of a less scary option for people who have never tried cannabis before. I would imagine that there’s people out there, now that it’s legal, are interested in trying it, so hopefully places like ours kind provide a little guidance or at least some advice,” said Schaefer.

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The possible future location of a cannabis retail store on Main Street in Smithers, last occupied by Rudolph’s Sausage. (Chris Gareau photo)

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