Cannabis retailer Tokyo Smoke will open its fourth store in Winnipeg on Wednesday morning, near the city's western boundary at 3393 Portage Ave.
The new store is Winnipeg's fourteenth licensed cannabis retailer, a number that includes three other Tokyo Smoke stores and two Tweed stores also operated by Tokyo Smoke's Ontario-based parent company, Canopy Growth Corporation. Meta Cannabis Supply Co. operates four Winnipeg locations, and Delta 9 Cannabis and Garden Variety each operate two stores in the city. Across Manitoba, 24 cannabis store licences have been issued to date by provincial cannabis retail regulator LGCA.
Every one of those licensed stores sells cannabis sourced from provincial cannabis wholesaler MBLL, which buys it directly from federally licensed producers. Since cannabis inventories tend to be similar across stores, retailers have to find other ways to stand out in order to compete.
To that end, Tokyo Smoke aims to provide what community manager Laura Miller described as "an education-first approach to the cannabis retail experience."
Shoppers can book one-on-one consultations with store staff, she explained.
"We start with basic cannabis 101 information, so learning about the different ways you can consume cannabis, different formats, the different active ingredients... And then we also offer the opportunity to learn how to use our different accessories, learn how to roll a joint, learn how to use a vaporizer."
However, store staff can't provide any medical or therapeutic advice related to cannabis, Miller added.
Roughly 80 employees now work at Winnipeg's Tokyo Smoke locations, said Miller. The retailer also operates one store in Brandon, but doesn't have immediate plans to open any other locations in Manitoba.
Miller believes the next big phase of cannabis retail will be the introduction of legally produced cannabis-infused food and concentrated cannabis products, including topical creams and e-cigarette-like vape pens. New federal regulations enabling those products will go into force this October, with sales expected to begin by December.
Solomon Israel is a full-time reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press and for two years, the lead writer for Free Press cannabis news site, The Leaf News. He continues to provide coverage of the cannabis beat while covering business in the city and province.