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Not yet, but almost.Our federal government has announced that non-medical cannabis purchase and consumption will be legal across Canada on October 17, 2018. However, it remains a bit of a mystery exactly what the retail landscape will look like here in British Columbia.In some provinces and territories, like Quebec and the Northwest Territories, for example, distribution will be handled solely by the government liquor boards. Other areas, such as Alberta and Saskatchewan, favour a privatized model regulated by local liquor commissions.Here in beautiful BC, we’re expecting a blend of government and privately-run cannabis stores, not unlike the current model for liquor distribution. However, it will remain the dominion of each municipality to decide how (or if) cannabis retail outlets will be allowed within their jurisdictions.Over the next few weeks and months, there will be many opportunities to add your voice to what will continue to be a spirited public discourse about the cannabis retail framework.Before you cast your vote, either in your regional municipality or even within your strata, it’s important to educate yourself and be clear about the possible benefits of having a legal and regulated cannabis store in your area or building. Not all cannabis stores are created equal, and Vancouverites know it better than most.Vancouver is, after all, home to the BC Compassion Club Society (founded in 1997), the oldest and longest continuously-running medical cannabis dispensary in the Americas. Nestled on Commercial Drive in East Van, it remains a hub of a vital support for its tight-knit local community. Since its founding, our city has seen steady growth in the number of (mostly illegal) dispensaries, some of which offer quality product and service, alongside those that don’t.
Not all cannabis stores are created equal, and Vancouverites know it better than most.
In 2016, Vancouver took the bold step to regulate grey market cannabis dispensaries, even though they remained federally illegal. This had the effect of obligating approved stores to offer higher standards of community conduct, creating a new template for what a good cannabis store could be. The best operators in this group of independent retailers are those who committed to work closely with local residents and strata boards, as well as their community at large.“The right dispensary places high value on maintenance, cleanliness and appearance so there is a willingness to commit to building improvements,” said Denise Brennan, community outreach coordinator with city-licensed Eden Medicinal Society (3441 Kingsway). “Like any responsible business, good dispensaries will work with commercial and residential stratas to develop an appropriate, customized security plan in consultation with a strata representative to reduce risk, which could reduce the cost of the building’s insurance.”She went further to suggest that professional cannabis outlets might also be compelled to provide extra security (for the safety of customers and residents alike), install air filtration systems (to keep alluring aromas at bay) and actively discourage cannabis use within and around the building.With those thoughts in mind, I made the trip to Eden to see for myself. From its inception, the store and its team have adopted a community-focused approach from a health and wellness perspective. In fact, while I was shopping, one of their members walked in, a woman in her mid-30s who had recently suffered significant injuries and brain trauma from an accident. According to Vanessa, the dynamic and kindhearted manager on duty, the woman’s doctors had prescribed her a debilitating regimen of more than 30 different pharmaceuticals, leading to many undesirable side-effects. Upon hearing of the potential therapeutic results from certain strains of cannabis, she sought the support of Eden’s team members and was welcomed with loving arms. After a year of targeted cannabis therapy, she is now able to walk again, has reduced her pharmaceutical regime by half and has taken her life back, strongly suggesting that cannabis stores which are committed to harm reduction and public safety can be an important part of our community.I rounded out my visit by taking home a few recommended selections from their “Private Reserve” series—lab-tested products that are free from pesticides, mold and mildew, all sourced from trusted growers that the store has worked with for years.LSD, a citrussy sativa, announced its arrival with lively aromatics of grapefruit, pine and soft mint. Burning clean with bright white ash, its flavours were refreshing and slightly sweet. Instantly heady with an energizing buzz, this one is custom-made for daytime enjoyment, basking in summer sun and weekend waves.
Instantly heady with an energizing buzz, this one is custom-made for daytime enjoyment, basking in summer sun and weekend waves.
Best suited for quiet, evening pursuits, the Beach OG provided exactly the experience I was seeking from a product billed as a “heavy indica”. Posting THC levels of 27 percent, I rightly suspected that this sticky strain, with flavours and aromas of roasted red peppers, dried shiitake mushrooms and freshly-grated Manchego cheese, would lead me to an uplifting feeling of giddiness before wrapping me in a blanket of slumber. This is what I’ll enjoy when I’m not going anywhere, not doing anything except relaxing and winding down for the night.However, I must say that CBD Death Bubba, also an indica, might be my new favourite. While the Death Bubba strain is a modern classic in BC, this version matches the THC with cannabidiol (CBD) in a nearly one-to-one ratio. The addition of higher levels of CBD is what gives an experience that is focused and clear-headed, perfectly on the right side of mellow. And gosh, what a flavour! Notes of dried fruits (cherries, apricots) intermingle with richer flavours of burnt coffee, Swedish berries and moist earth.The breakdown: LSD, Sativa / Beach OG, Indica / CBD Death Bubba, Indica. Each Private Reserve selection is $12/gram and available at Eden Medicinal Society (3441 Kingsway).