St. Vital Centre sprouts cannabis shop


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Attention St. Vital Centre shoppers: if you’re looking for that unique last-minute Christmas present, why not give the gift of weed.

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Attention St. Vital Centre shoppers: if you’re looking for that unique last-minute Christmas present, why not give the gift of weed.

Canna Cabana is opening in the southeast Winnipeg mall on Friday, marking the city’s first cannabis shop in such a facility.

“Our retail strategy involves finding the best available real estate in high-traffic and high-population density areas,” said Raj Grover, president of High Tide (Canna Cabana’s parent company) in a news release.

The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority issued a retail licence to Canna Cabana in the mall — near the Walmart — on Thursday.

The LGCA doesn’t differentiate between stand-alone stores, strip malls and enclosed shopping malls when handing out licences, Lisa Hansen, the LGCA’s communications analyst, wrote in an email.

Canna Cabana’s digital kiosks are up, the windows are tinted and the weed is ready for purchase, according to Omar Khan, senior vice-president of corporate and public affairs for High Tide.

“Most of our locations across Canada are in suburban power centres,” he said. “We’re starting to look at other types of locations beyond that.”

Canna Cabana has 147 shops across the country. Ten are in Manitoba; half of those are in Winnipeg.

The chain has a mall storefront in Alberta, making the 1,292-square-foot space in St. Vital its second mall shop, Khan said.

“We try and make sure (they’re) not located, for example, next to or near the food court, because that’s where families might gather,” he said. “We try to avoid areas that we and the mall management might think could be high traffic areas for families.”

St. Vital Centre staff did not respond to interview requests by deadline.

High Tide follows a national trend — cannabis companies are opening in malls across the country. Tokyo Smoke had eight stores in shopping centres, including the Eaton Centre in Toronto and the Rideau Centre in Ottawa, as of April, according to The Canadian Press.

Cannabis shops have opened in Otineka Mall in Opaskwayak Cree Nation and Brandon’s Shoppers Mall.

“If we can add an element of convenience for our consumers who are doing other shopping to be able to just pop in and buy their legal cannabis, we see no reason why not to give them that opportunity,” Khan said.

The stores follow the same rules as those operating outside shopping centres, Hansen noted.

“An age-restricted store must have methods in place to ensure those younger than 19 years don’t enter the store and ensure that cannabis, cannabis accessories and promotional material… cannot be seen from outside the cannabis store,” she wrote.

Though Canna Cabana will be the first of its kind inside St. Vital Centre, Delta 9, Spiritleaf and Up in Sky Cannabis and Tobacconist shops are all within five-minute drives of the mall.

As of Dec. 16, there were 171 cannabis shops in the province, while another 21 applications (including Canna Cabana) were in the process of being licensed.

From Jan. 1 to Dec. 16, the LGCA had issued 48 cannabis retailer licences, Hansen wrote in an email. Eight of those were cancelled or not renewed, she added.

Four shops have closed in Manitoba over the past 18 months, Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries president Manny Atwal told a provincial committee on Dec. 13.

“We think the fact that consumers are getting more and more access to legal cannabis is good,” Khan said, adding it helps detract buyers from the illicit market.

Roughly 60 per cent of Manitoban cannabis users are buying legally. The number has grown from zero per cent in around four years, Atwal said earlier this month.

Municipalities approve cannabis shop locations through zoning bylaws, according to Laurel Trotter, communications program manager for Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries.

Gabrielle Piché

Gabrielle Piché

Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.

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