Elliot Ferguson | The Kingston Whig Standard
A quality product at a good price is how companies hoping to open cannabis stores in Kingston plan to compete.
Kingston city council voted unanimously early Wednesday morning to allow private retail cannabis stores to open.
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On Friday, the provincial government is to hold a lottery to distribute the first 25 retail cannabis licences.
The stores are expected to be ready to open by April 1, and Jennawae McLean of 420 Kingston said having good quality cannabis for a good price is how those stores will survive.
But to survive in the new bricks-and-mortar retail market, any store in Kingston would need to compete against dozens of stores that have opened in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, less than an hour’s drive away along Highway 401. Those stores have been operating for a couple of years outside of the province’s regulatory system.
“Definitely by having good variety, which means supply needs to be worked on, by having good price points and by having a very high quality of cannabis,’ McLean said Wednesday morning, shortly after city council’s midnight vote.
The provincial government is limiting the number of cannabis retail licences to 25, in part because the supply of cannabis is not great enough to allow more retailers.
McLean said some of the companies that win licences on Friday won’t be ready to open on April 1, so not winning a licence on Friday may not be the end of the line.
McLean said her company has its financing ready, business plan together, its training and staff handbooks prepared and a west-end storefront already rented.
“The waiting list will still be a hot place to be,’ she said.
McLean said there are close to 600 companies waiting for production licences and more needs to be done to bring those producers into the supply chain.
“It has to be all the way across the board. It doesn’t just start with us, because we can only handle what we are allowed to buy. It starts with the federal government choosing to license more producers,’ she said. ”Legal supply is a real issue.’
McLean’s emphasis on quality and price is how other retailers plan to compete, said Kim Wright, a public relations consultant for Alberta-based Fire and Flower, which is looking to set up stores in municipalities across Ontario, including Kingston.
“I think it goes down to ensuring there is a high-quality product and an availability of product, but also that personal conversation where people can feel comfortable going in and understanding what they might be consuming,’ said Wright, who spoke to city council Tuesday night about Fire and Flower’s business practices.
“What is interesting is what people have been saying, [that] the OCS is great, the website is great, but they also want that bricks-and-mortar experience. People want to go into a store, they want to see the product, they want to understand the product and the various types of product that are currently in the marketplace and that will be in the marketplace come October 2019.’
Wright told city council there is expected to be strong growth in the edibles and consumables market at the expense of traditional cannabis smoking.