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New Sudbury cannabis store opening delayed until April 5

Highlife store on Marcus Drive still waiting for province to issue licence
Greater Sudbury's first cannabis store, Highlife located on Marcus Drive, won't open April 1 as it waits for its operating licence from the province. The new tentative opening date is April 5. (File)

Highlife, Greater Sudbury's first retail cannabis store, won't open April 1 after all, a spokesperson for the store said Tuesday.

Eddie Grinberg said their new, tentative opening day is April 5, assuming Ontario's Alcohol and Gaming Commission is able to process the backlog of licence applications for the first 25-store rollout of marijuana retailers across the province next month.

“We're hoping for (April) 5th,” Grinberg said, on the phone from the Marcus Drive outlet. “We were hoping to get a confirmation today or tomorrow about the April 5 opening.”

Grinberg said the province has to do due diligence when processing licence applications, and they are clearly a little behind in that process.

According to the OAGC website Tuesday afternoon, 10 of the 25 stores have received their licence to operate and can open April 1.

"As you know, a temporary measure was put in place by the Government of Ontario allowing for the authorization of 25 stores until there is enough reliable cannabis supply from federally licensed producers. Every one of the 25 applicants is now moving through a rigorous process and they are all currently at different stages, including the two proposed Sudbury locations," said Raymond Kahnert, senior communications advisor with the OAGC.

"At this point, it’s certainly clear there will not be 25 stores open in Ontario right on April 1. It’s too early to say how many will be."

But Highlife is ready to go, Grinberg said. As soon as they receive approval to operate, they can make their first order from the Ontario Cannabis Store. They have hired 40 staffers, Grinberg said, who have undergone the cannabis equivalent of smart-serve training, as well training on the products the store will sell.

“They receive the training course that, you know, about not serving people under the age of 19, or serving impaired people and on and on,” he said. “And then we give them the training with regards to to the cannabis itself – which strain is it? What does it do? So they learn about the effects of cannabis – about sativas and indicas and hybrids and what all that means.”

Highlife will carry about 350 lines of cannabis products, mainly from the OCS, but a few of their own, as well. Customers won't be able to handle the marijuana before they buy, but they will be able to take a sniff from special goblets, and even take a look with a magnifying glass.

“Is it the flavour you're looking for? Is it right the potency?” Grinberg said, about the purpose of the goblets. “And the smell – some people like more the skunky smell, some people like more the citrus smell to it. So it gives you an indication as to what it is.”

While he's expecting a big rush (pardon the pun) when the store first opens, Grinberg said he's confident they will have plenty of supply on hand to meet demand. What he's less certain about is whether the province will be able to keep them supplied once stores across the province are in need of weekly stock refilling.

“We'll have to see how the government progresses in obtaining their inventory,” he said. “For the first little while, we'll definitely have it. After that, we don't know that they're going to have (the products) we desire to be restocked.”

Unlike liquor or beer stores, the cannabis store won't have open products that customers can peruse. The weed comes in sealed packages that can't be opened until it's purchased.

When it is open, the store will operate seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Age restrictions will be vigorously enforced, Grinberg said, and anyone under age 30 should expect to be asked for ID and anyone underage won't be allowed in the store.


Darren MacDonald

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