Spiritleaf owners Jeff Sweetnam and fiance April Bursey own the Maple Ridge private pot retailer. (Neil Corbett/THE NEWS)

Maple Ridge’s first retail cannabis store opens Monday

Spiritleaf is just the second private pot shop in the Fraser Valley

Maple Ridge’s first retail cannabis store will be open for business on Monday.

Spiritleaf opens at Valleyfair Mall, selling retail cannabis from a commercial store for the first time in the city. There will be a “soft opening” on Monday, and then a grand opening event on Tuesday featuring the company president, members of Maple Ridge city council, local growers and even gift bags for the first 50 customers.

There are breaking new ground. There is only one other retail cannabis store in the Lower Mainland outside of the Vancouver city limits, said the company. The provincial government website lists only one other in the Fraser Valley – The Kure Cannabis Society in Chilliwack. There are 12 in Vancouver, and many more in the Interior and on Vancouver Island.

City council approved the store in May, and staff noted it was the first of 12 applications to open cannabis stores in the city. So far only two have been approved by the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch.

Inside the law or not, consumers have been able to purchase pot at a “grey market” storefront in Maple Ridge for years, from operations that have called themselves dispensaries of medicinal marijuana.

Spiritleaf owner Jeff Sweetnam said this store is different. Most obviously, it is located in a commercial hot spot, right next to Save-on Foods and the government liquor store. Rather than jars full of cannabis which are typically found at dispensaries, the Spiritleaf store will sell pre-rolled joints. There will be CBD and THC oils and capsules, and coming in December there will be edibles and other products. All are government approved.

Sweetnam said he is aiming for “a high-end retail experience,” and the store will offer stone pipes and other accessories not found in “head shops,” he said.

The store will feature a display by Maple Ridge growers Tantalus Labs, and Sweetnam said his store will promote made-in-B.C. and Canada product.

“A big focus of ours will be around B.C. Bud and local producers,” he said. “B.C. has a rich history in cannabis.”

Sweetnam won’t be surprised if some of his customers slip into the store wearing hats and dark glasses, acknowledging their “absolutely is” a remaining stigma against pot smokers.

He said the key is open and frank discussion.

“If you talk about it, people are excited about cannabis legalization,” he said.

Sweetnam, an entrepreneur with a background in the cleaning business, is the franchise owner. Calgary-based Spiritleaf is a the second largest retailer in Canada.

“Spiritleaf Maple Ridge has created a modern retail model that offers legitimacy, reputability, professionalism and a feeling of confidence,” said the company press release.

The company will be capped at eight stores in B.C. until 2021 as the government does a controlled roll out, noted Sweetnam.

He has been about a year getting ready for Monday’s opening. He said city hall has been cautious and thorough but helpful, and the mall management has been supportive of the new venture.


 

@NeilCorbett18
ncorbett@mapleridgenews.com

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