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NSLC plans to stick with cannabis ‘essentials’ for now

Coastal Vapor employee Dylan Muise explains how the sophisticated Arizer Extreme-Q vaporizer works at the shop he manages on Charlotte Street in Sydney. The owner of Coastal Vapor, Walter Burgess, says he’s preparing to stock up on merchandise and accessories for marijuana users as the drug will become legal this summer.
Coastal Vapor employee Dylan Muise explains how the sophisticated Arizer Extreme-Q vaporizer works at the shop he manages on Charlotte Street in Sydney. The owner of Coastal Vapor, Walter Burgess, says he’s preparing to stock up on merchandise and accessories for marijuana users as the drug will become legal this summer. - Chris Shannon

With the legalization of recreational cannabis, local merchants look to capitalize on the sale of marijuana merchandise

SYDNEY, N.S. — Everything from bongs to pipes and vaporizers will likely become commonplace in local smoke shops as recreational cannabis sales will become legal this summer.

The Nova Scotia Liquor Corp., which will operate marijuana dispensaries from nine liquor outlets in the province, has said it will leave the sale of cannabis accessories and related products to the private sector.

That news was received well by smoke and e-cigarette shops that are hoping to expand their line of products to include accessories used by marijuana users.

Walter Burgess, manager of Coastal Vapor’s three stores in Sydney, Glace Bay and New Waterford, said he’s been selling e-cigarettes and associated merchandise since December 2014 and plans to move toward selling marijuana paraphernalia too.

Before he does, he’ll be looking for clarification from the provincial and federal governments on what items he can sell.

“I would carry (marijuana merchandise) right in my stores but if they’re not going to allow me to do that, I’ll set up a separate entity and open a separate store,” Burgess said in an interview Monday.

“I’m thinking if we do a brick and mortar (store) it’s going to be in Glace Bay and we’ll use our other stores as depots where people can order and pick it up there.”

He said he would also look at launching a website to promote and sell the accessories.

NSLC CEO Bret Mitchell said it’s the intention of the liquor corporation to keep to the “essentials” and leave the private sector to sell accessories specific to the use of cannabis.

“It’ll just be the basic things that are required, probably some kind of trimmer, probably some type of bong inhaler,” Mitchell said on Jan. 30 at a news conference to announce which NSLC outlets would be carrying marijuana.

The Sydney River NSLC outlet will be the only store in Cape Breton where legal cannabis can be purchased.

Figures released from Statistics Canada last year show Canadians spent an estimated $5.7-billion on cannabis. About 4.9 million people between the ages of 15 to 64 purchased both medical and non-medical cannabis in 2017, according to the report. Medical marijuana is already legal in the country.

The average cannabis user spent about $1,200 on the drug last year, mostly on non-medical marijuana, the report said.

Burgess said it’s tough to say how much money there is to be made on merchandise and accessories, as they’re typically one-time purchases.

But there may be more people willing to purchase marijuana accessories in-store as it becomes more socially acceptable to do so, he added.

“There’s a lot of people who smoke weed who don’t want to let on that they do.”

At Mary Jane’s Smoke Shop, also on Charlotte Street in Sydney, there is more of a wait-and-see attitude on how the legalization of cannabis will change the shop’s retail offerings.

The store already sells many items marijuana users are looking for such as bongs, pipes and vaporizers.

Mary Jane’s manager Sherri Mombourquette said a lot of the products are considered novelty items.

“Vaporizers are very popular,” she said, “(as) it’s lighter on the lungs since it’s a vapor, not smoke.”

She said she’s hopeful the legalization of cannabis will eventually grow the business.

“Once they put more information out there then we’ll know more about what we’re going to be allowed to do and what we’re not going to be allowed to do.”

The full implementation of legal cannabis could happen after July 1, according to the federal government, if more time is required for provinces to put the legal framework in place.

chris.shannon@cbpost.com

Twitter: @cbpost_chris

Related Coverage:

• In Cape Breton, cannabis will be available only at Sydney River NSLC outlet

• N.S. sets legal age for marijuana use at 19, names liquor agency as retailer

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