Article by Joseph Hall, Toronto Star
Ontario’s halting foray into the retail cannabis world is set to begin Monday, when the province’s first 25 recreational pot shops are scheduled to open.
Though many of those initial stores — selected in a January licensing lottery that saw 16,905 people and companies enter — will not open on time, hundreds more will follow over the coming months and years.
How will that cannabis cavalcade roll out? What will the stores look like? How will they operate and when? Who can they serve? Who can even go into them?
The Star asked industry experts Rod Elliot and Alanna Sokic, of the Toronto consulting company Global Public Affairs, and Matei Olaru, CEO of the cannabis resource and information firm Lift & Co., to weigh in on these and other questions.
This is an edited version of their emailed responses.
Several store mock-ups and pop-ups have appeared in Toronto over the past few months and they were elegantly decorated and inviting. Do you anticipate this will be the norm as the real ones proliferate?
Elliot and Sokic: To make novice or inexperienced cannabis consumers feel comfortable and welcome, retailers are consciously designing their stores in a fashion familiar to the average person (the most common comparison being an Apple store.) The sleek designs seen in several mock-ups are likely to become the norm.
What should customers expect in terms of service? Will the employees be knowledgeable about the products? Will customers be able to smell and view products before they purchase?
Elliot and Sokic: Given this is an entirely new market, with much riding on its success, we would expect employees to be patient, courteous and helpful when dealing with customers. All retail store employees will be required by law to complete the CannSell retail certification program. Developed by Lift & Co. and MADD Canada, the program teaches employees about cannabis, its effects, safe methods of consumption and associated risks. The course takes a maximum of four hours to complete and can be completed online at learn.cannsell.ca.