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Kamloops votes to support licence for B.C.’s first legal pot store

KAMLOOPS — So it begins. Recreational pot is legal in Canada and B.C.’s lone government-sanctioned store, in Kamloops, opens its doors at 10 a.m. Wednesday with unanimous support from city council.

The site of a former Dollar Store, adjacent to a Save-On-Foods on Summit Drive, has become ground zero for legalization in B.C. Elsewhere in the province, local governments await applications for government and private stores from the province for their own vetting, before public consultation and rezoning that could take up to 18 months in some cases.

On Tuesday, Kamloops city council voted unanimously to support the retail cannabis business licence for the B.C. government store — ‘No. CAN00001’, officially — a last-minute approval which had been expected to pass with little or no protest.

Coun. Denis Walsh recused himself from discussion and voting because of his own pending application for a cannabis store. A lone speaker raised questions about the store’s $5,000 business licence but there were no public comments otherwise. Staff told council they received no public submissions regarding the application.

“History has been made,” Mayor Ken Christian said after a quick vote, to a few chuckles and no celebration.

Later, Christian said he felt the cannabis store faced little resistance because council did good public consultation and city staff’s guidance on the file was effective.

Christian doesn’t expect a surge in tourism and believes interest in the store will cool off within months, when others open, he said. Still, he finds it curious that people have begun referring to his city as “Kamsterdam,” he added.

“There’s a lot of speculation about lineups and people driving from afar,” he said.

“Let’s be realistic. You can obtain cannabis in Kamloops, you can obtain it in Vernon or Kelowna, so I think to drive here for this novelty would be somewhat of a mistake, but that said there will be other municipalities that follow the lead of Kamloops.”

Early Tuesday, contractors made finishing touches to the facade beneath the store’s glowing white B.C. Cannabis Store sign in anticipation of the opening.

On Tuesday afternoon, B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch spokeswoman Viviana Zanocco spoke with locals outside the store about the opening, while staff inside unsealed dried cannabis and put it inside “sniff jars,” so customers can see and smell product up close.

“The energy is amazing, everybody’s just so excited,” Zannoco said. “A little bit of exhaustion is setting in because we’ve been preparing for weeks and months.”

The BCLDB has delayed media tours of the store’s interior until Wednesday morning before it opens to the public, but Zanocco expects customers will be impressed.

The first thing they will notice is the store’s front windows, made opaque by frosted film depicting trees and mountain peaks. A blue security strobe light and alarm siren hangs over the front door, which is monitored by a security camera.

A departure from pot shops, which are often cash-only, a sign near the entrance indicates the new store accepts Mastercard, Visa, American Express and Interac.

Everyone who enters is greeted by a staffer who asks for two pieces of ID — one government, the other something with the customer’s name — regardless of their apparent age. After the ID check, they walk through a second door and are met by staff who ask them a few questions about what products they seek, and chat with them about possession laws and safe consumption.

Signs inside the store provide information about cannabis, including explanations of THC, CBD, indicas, sativas and terpenes. Large flatscreen monitors serve as menus for the store’s 85 dried-flower varieties as well as oils, capsules and pre-rolled joints, with information about pricing.

After a customer decides, they fill out an order slip and bring it to a staff member to be fulfilled.

Zanocco said the BCLDB “hired people from the current dispensary world, so people who know the product and have been using and or selling until recently came to work for us.

“They helped us purchase the strains … and led some of our education sessions.”

Dave Jones, business-licence inspector and property-use coordinator for Kamloops, described the store’s interior as similar to an Apple Store, with plenty of glass and shining chrome.

While he wasn’t able to provide too many details, Jones said he was impressed by the store’s focus on customer education and its modern, inviting design.

“It’s nice and clean and bright,” he said. “It’s kind of like a high-end jewelry store.”

He expects it to be more than ready for the public on Wednesday.

“Any new business, there’s always going to be a hiccup or two, but I think from what I’ve seen — with the amount of time and effort the province put in — they want to be ready.”

The store will be open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

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