It is understandable to see companies from various business sectors move into the cannabis industry, especially in Canada, where federal legalization has made it legally (and more culturally) acceptable for beverage, tobacco, and other types of businesses to look for more green while investing in the green. In Vancouver, British Columbia, the Donnelly Group, known for operating popular drinking establishments (pubs, taverns, bars, and nightclubs) has moved into the cannabis space with its Hobo Recreational Cannabis Store, planning on eventually running eight retail B.C. outlets.

Vancouver is certainly a long leader in the cannabis culture, but that underground mindset, coupled with regulatory hurdles, has led to very slow growth for the regulated sector following Canada’s landmark legalization law. Government officials have downgraded its three-year cannabis tax revenue projection to about a third of initial estimates as the regulated industry has had a hard time competing with unlicensed establishments. Retailers know that they must find a way to stand out and grow their customer base, as the Vancouver Sun reported:

“You walk into the store and there is a clean, contemporary sense of bohemia in there,” says Harrison Stoker, vice-president of brand and culture at the Donnelly Group.

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There are rows of glass display cases arranged in different categories with names, descriptions and signs that are akin to your average Vancouver yoga class schedule, coffee house or craft beer pub menu.

Customers can opt for product in the category of Move, which is “THC dominant,” or Lift or Balance, which is “equal parts THC to CBD.” There is Calm and Rest, which has “indica varietals with plenty of THC and less CBD to gear down for some serious rest and relaxation.”

Finding the right regulatory balance is a complicated task politically. However, once legal, cannabis retailer regulations should ultimately be similar to the rules governing the Donnelly Group’s alcohol establishments: products should be tested, age requirements should be met, and no one should be over-served. Hopefully, with prominent bar owners moving into the cannabis space, regulators can be convinced to implement sensible regulations that allow small businesses to thrive, including those that laid the foundation for legalization in the first place.

The International Cannabis Business Conference will have the latest on local British Columbia regulations as well as an update on the entire Canadian cannabis industry at our next conference in Vancouver this September 15-16. Get your early-bird tickets today!