Muse Cannabis is hoping to set the bar high for cannabis shops in New Westminster.
Following public hearings on Monday night, council approved applications for two cannabis stores, including Muse Cannabis at 532 Sixth St.
“We are just really excited about it. We really love New Westminster. Our JAK’s store there has done really well,” said Mike McKee, director of real estate and finance for JAK’s Beer Wine and Spirits. “We are really excited to be one of the first stores in New West and to really set the bar high for all our future competitors in terms of what needs to be done to run a successful cannabis store in the city.”
McKee said cannabis was a “natural fit” for JAK’s, as it operates under a similar regulatory framework as alcohol. The company, which owns JAK’s Beer Wine and Spirits on Seventh Street, opened its first cannabis store on South Granville Street in Vancouver on June 8.
“We want to create, much like JAK’s, a very comfortable space, an upscale type of environment. We want to make it a very comfortable shopping experience,” McKee told the Record. “We plan to have a very similar look and feel to the store in uptown as we have on South Granville.”
According to McKee, Muse Cannabis will initially have more than 100 different products in stock, but that will double or triple in the next six to 12 months because beverages, edibles and concentrates should become available around Christmastime.
Based on JAK’s experience in opening a shop on South Granville Street, McKee said the hope is to open the New Westminster store by Oct. 1.
“One of the biggest sticking points we have run into is with staff,” he said. “If we hire someone they have to go through a background verification process through the province. Once they have done it once, they can use it for any cannabis retailer, but for a lot of these people who are working for us, we are their first licensed cannabis retailer to work for so it’s the first time they are going through that process. It is taking on average 35 business days, which is seven weeks, from when they apply.”
According to McKee, staffing is an issue at JAK’s newly opened location in Vancouver, as it’s waiting for criminal record checks on employees.
“I am not even open full hours because I don’t have enough people approved there,” he said. “It’s been a real struggle on that side.”
The legalization of the production, sale and possession of non-medical cannabis in Canada has resulted in a division of roles and responsibilities for the federal, provincial and municipal governments.
“The process has been, I would say pretty much as expected, except we thought the province might be moving a little faster,” McKee said. “I feel the city has done their part. In fact, I would say the city has gone above and beyond a bit in pushing that is public hearing for this one. I feel that the province has been very slow in getting the information to the city. It’s been a fairly smooth process with the city.”
The City of New Westminster received applications for 22 cannabis shops in the city, all of which have to receive financial integrity and security program checks from the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch.
JAK’s, which has also received approval for locations on Courtney and Campbell River, has to go through the same process with the province for each location.
“From what I understand now it’s taking up to four months to get that approval,” he said of the province. “My dealings with the people who are there have been good. I just think that you can only push so much water through a hose – they need more people to process this.”