It’s been “interesting” opening a new cannabis business in an emerging cannabis industry during a global pandemic.
That was the word last week from Cannabis Connection’s retail operations manager, Tina Cox.
The fully licensed cannabis store on Industrial Way just celebrated its first anniversary last weekend as one of half a dozen licensed operations in Chilliwack.
“Having our first year of business during a global pandemic definitely made things more interesting,” Cox said. “There were times we thought we might get shut down, but instead recreational cannabis went from being illegal to being essential in the blink of an eye.”
The provincial government declared cannabis retail an essential service in March of 2019, just weeks into the COVID-19 shutdown.
Cannabis Connection was among the first to open legally and licensed within the City of Chilliwack boundaries, and it is owned by Lickman Travel Centre Inc.
The complete list of licensed cannabis stores open to date include:
The Kure (Dyke Road), Cannabis Connection (Industrial Way), Seed & Stone (Lickman Road), This is Cannabis (Vedder Road), Dutch Brothers Buds (Vedder Road), and BC Cannabis Store (Luckakuck Way).
The most recent store openings were the BC Cannabis Store and Dutch Brothers Buds.
Chilliwack council created a special zone, C9 for Cannabis Retail zoning ahead of legalization in 2018. The C9 provides development criteria for storefront retailers, including specific standards to mitigate exposure to minors as well as avoiding clusters in a commercial area.
Would-be store operators have to apply to rezone the property, as well as applying for a retail licence from the Province of BC, and then they can apply for a business licence from Chilliwack. Security plans, police checks, security alarms and air filtration are some of the requirements for getting a business licence.
Chilliwack opted for a 300-metre buffer under the C9 Zone to keep cannabis stores away from schools, community centres, sports fields, playgrounds and supportive housing or facilities that serve vulnerable youth.
There are also several All Nations Cannabis stores on First Nations lands in the Chilliwack area. The All Nations stores, which re-branded this past year, removing the original Indigenous Bloom signage, were licensed through cannabis legislation enacted by individual Indigenous nations, including dispensaries on Ashwell Drive, Schweyey Road, and more.