Online cannabis brand signing leases ahead of legalization in Ontario

Aug 15 2018, 5:37 pm

Jeremy Potvin, CEO and co-founder at Weedbox, a Canadian-based online cannabis and accessories store, is excited by the opportunity for private cannabis retail in Ontario.

“Our focus was the California market but when Ford’s government made that announcement it changed our immediate focus to Ontario,” Potvin told Daily Hive over the phone.

Looking to secure Weedbox’s place in the brick-and-mortar retail landscape, Potvin said the company has already signed one lease, and has “a significant number of other offers out there.”

Potvin’s eagerness to secure locations in Ontario is echoed by other players in the cannabis industry.

“There are dozens if not hundreds signing leases right now. Anyone with any kind of retail strategy is looking into leases in Ontario.”

Hoping his proactive approach pays off, Potvin acknowledges that there are many risks and challenges.

“Hopefully when the municipalities pass their bylaws we’ll be able to get licensed for that location as well as our other locations,” said Potvin.

Ontario will be entering into a consultation phase with municipalities next week, as well as Indigenous communities, law enforcement, public health advocates, businesses and consumer groups and representatives of the other provinces.

It was proposed that municipalities will get a one-time window in which newly elected councillors can choose whether or not they want to allow private retail within their borders, something that could pose an issue for Potvin and other retailers pre-emptively signing leases.

“One of the challenges is that we don’t know where we’re going to be allowed to open and what the process is going to be to apply,” said Potvin.

Furthermore, it is unknown at this time how many licences will be issued.

Another challenge is finding a landlord who is okay with cannabis sales in their space.

Potvin says that nearly a century of stigma and prohibition, subpar illegal dispensaries as a model, and a lack of knowledge of the business have understandably left some landlords less than enthusiastic about renting their space for cannabis retail.

“Any savvy landlord who’s paying attention to the market understands how huge this is going to be. So they’re looking at who is going to be the winner? Who’s the right company to give a lease to?”

Part of Potvin’s strategy is to look for are the areas that will cater to their target market in terms of demographics and retail experience.

“Our consumers have been screaming loudly for the last three decades that they want an alternative to the LCBO for purchasing alcohol. Consumers will get the retail variety that they have wanted from the LCBO but with cannabis,” said Potvin, stating that he believes “there will be fantastic retail experiences across the province much faster than the government could have delivered.”

As for being ready to open doors by the government’s proposed date of April 1, 2019?

Potvin said he “would have done everything humanly possible to be open for October 17, so I do believe we’ll have private retail stores open by April.”

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