Seniors are loving cannabis on northern Vancouver Island.
Vancouver Island’s northernmost town has two legal cannabis stores. North Island Cannabis, opened last spring, and Victoria-based Pacificanna opened a Port Hardy location on the first day of summer.
Since then, Pacificanna manager Sandra Boyd has seen a marked increase in the age of her customers. Over half of the people she serves are seniors, she estimates.
“I never thought in a million years I’d be selling pot to my dad,” said Pacificanna assistant manager Amy Krull.
CBD oil seems to be the product of choice. Smoking isn’t good for lungs, the gummies allowed by the Liquor & Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) aren’t strong enough, and “they don’t like taking pills because it’s too much like taking pills,” Boyd says.
Customers have become more interested in how the product works over time. “They’ll come in and describe what they’re looking for. Oh you’re on a mission. I can help you with that.”
Boyd has been using marijuana for years as treatment for chronic pain, and still she says she learns something almost daily.
“How they took dirt pot from when I was a teenager and turned it into this,” she waves her hand to indicate the store. It looks more like a pharmacy than the illegal pot stores of yore before Health Canada stepped in. There’s nary a tie-dye-Marley reference to be seen.
Despite the positive reception Port Hardy has given the two stores, it has been a tough year to open a new business, between the marathon logging strike and then COVID-19. But both stores are still in business, and deepening their roots in the community.
Tristan Radzik, part-owner of North Island Cannabis, is focused on the local market.
“I really try to learn the names of the locals. They’re the ones who are going to carry us through this year.”
Last year,there were more local tourists – people from Bella Bella, Alert Bay, Port Alice. But as those communities began to self-isolate because of COVID-19, it’s become clear that locals are keen on pot.
Radzik likes the opportunity to help customers find the right product for their needs. Many people have had bad experiences with edibles in the past, for example, but products are far different now than before they became regulated into an organized industry.
“Edibles aren’t Russian roulette anymore. We know the dosage, it’s very safe,” he said.
Boyd is grateful to the District of Port Hardy for recognizing the value of this industry, and jumping on board so quickly. The fledgling industry already employs six people — not a small number for a small town with a soaring unemployment rate.
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