(submitted / iNFOnews.ca)

Sarah Ballantyne often tells a customer at her cannabis retail store in Vernon to say hello to their mom. It’s not that the owner of the Spiritleaf outlet necessarily knows the mother personally, it’s just likely that the mother is also a customer.

This is an example of how the cannabis retail business has established itself in Canada over the past two and a half years since the federal government legalized cannabis. Retail stores like Ballantyne’s Spiritleaf store at 102-2500 53 Street in Vernon now sell everything from traditional dried flower and cannabis oils to cannabis-infused beverages, groceries, concentrates, and current items.

“The future really is limitless,” says Ballantyne. “It’s based on innovation and technology.”

The former government employee, who moved from Alberta to Vernon with her husband in 2018 to open her business, says the business has continued to grow since opening despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. She says when the pandemic was declared she thought it might need to be shut down for a while but was instead delighted when cannabis was deemed essential.

(SUBMITTED / iNFOnews.ca)

It prompted them to extend the store’s hours of operation, hire more staff, and even extend the senior discount it offers its senior customers. The working hours were seven days a week compared to the previous day a week. The large, clean, and welcoming store in a building that houses several professional businesses, has a well-trained and knowledgeable staff of eight – more in the summer months – and was Vernon’s first legal cannabis retail store. Thanks to its service, product quality, and knowledgeable staff, it has become popular with customers of all ages, says Ballantyne.

With the legalization and the arrival of retail stores in Canada carrying an ever larger selection of cannabis products, the stigma that once engulfed cannabis use in this country has virtually disappeared. Buying cannabis is now equated by some with buying wine, as there are different varieties and shops can now seek out craft producers and request their products through the provincial wholesaler who distributes cannabis across BC

Ballantyne begins by saying that the variety of cannabis products has been limited due to demand, regulation and pressure to create a retail industry from scratch. The government only had a few licensed producers to buy. But that has now changed, and Ballantyne is seeing an increase in the number of local handicraft producers supplying the government with their products. Stores like Ballantyne can now request specific products for the state wholesaler to source. This allows stores like Spiritleaf in Vernon to offer their customers the best possible selection of cannabis strains and products.

“In our case, we really grew up (in the first two years),” says Ballantyne. She looks forward to further product changes in the future as well as changes to the current rules so that customers have even more choice. Currently, customers can only buy a maximum of 30 grams of cannabis at a time, and in the case of cannabis-infused beverages, the equation limits the number of beverages that can be purchased at one time. Ballantyne said she would like to see a change that would allow a customer to purchase a six-pack of beverages, similar to the way beer is currently sold. She hopes government-industry consultations will change.

(SUBMITTED / iNFOnews.ca)

Spiritleaf in Vernon is a franchise, one of 85 Spiritleaf stores across the country.

In BC, Spiritleaf stores are located in Vernon, Kelowna, West Kelowna, Penticton, Castlegar, and Maple Ridge. With the annual celebration of 4 to 20 days for cannabis, Ballantyne invites the public ages 19 and up to visit the store and learn more about cannabis products and their potential benefits.

For more information about the Spiritleaf store in Vernon, visit www.spiritleaf.ca or call (236) 426-2230.

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