Although cannabis will be available at retail outlets once legalization comes into effect on Oct. 17, southwest coast residents will have to wait a bit longer to purchase it locally.
Taylor Giovannini of Oceanic Releaf says the date for the grand opening of the Port aux Basques location has not yet been determined, but she is hoping to have the doors open before the end of the year.
“I was keen on going to Port aux Basques,” says Giovannini, who jumped at the opportunity to grow into a new market. “Port aux Basques, I saw, you know, is one of the main entry points to Newfoundland. I wanted to show everyone who got off the boat that hey, here’s a Newfoundland company and we’re a part of the cannabis industry.”
Oceanic Releaf, which is in the process of becoming a licensed medical cannabis producer for Health Canada at its Burin location, will also operate stores in Marystown and Rocky Harbour. Giovannini sees the move to embrace a retail side to the business is more than just a natural fit.
“With the recreation (use) on the rise, I thought it was my social responsibility – as it is for others as well – but to deliver cannabis in a safe and responsible way, and I mean education is the only way to do that,” she said.
Giovannini, who has a business background, has consulted with cannabis experts and has been involved in the industry for the past two years. Opening her own stores means Oceanic Releaf can ensure that its staff are able to properly educate customers about all offerings on its product line, which will include oils and capsules.
Eventually the product line is expected to expand into other offerings such as edibles, infused wines and even bubble bath, but Giovannini says government has already said that will take at least another year.
“I can definitely see it going into different secondary products,” says Giovannini. “Newfoundland is a private market in terms of retailers, so it’s definitely going to be a competitive market, but you know the beauty with Canada is that, you know, we’re the first – going to be the first – G7 country to legalize it across the board, and that means that all recreational cannabis has to come from a licensed producer of Health Canada.”
Veteran entrepreneur and local resident Pam Osmond will run the day to day operations of the store. Giovannini says bringing Osmond into her operation was another natural fit.
“She reached out to me and told me her story and it just really resonated with me,” says Giovannini. “The reason I got involved with cannabis is originally for the medical side of it and, you know, she has a similar story. Her passion is very similar to mine.”
“I’m on it medically. So I’ve been (on it) now for four months. I’ve always had an interest in it,” confirms Osmond, who has sold her successful nail salon to move into the cannabis industry. “It’s helping people, what I love to do.”
Osmond says the feedback she has received has been only positive.
“Females are coming forward,” notes Osmond. “When I tell them (women) that I’m going to be managing? ‘Oh my God. Awesome. Now I will come in to talk to you about it.’”
Oceanic Releaf will offer a full women’s line of products, and Osmond mentions menopause and endometriosis as just two examples that the products can help address.
Osmond says a few seniors have already reached out with questions she’s been able to answer, but she doesn’t advise anyone when it comes to medical usage.
While both women came to the industry through the medical side of cannabis, Giovannini is quick to clarify that the shop is only able to provide recreational cannabis products. People requiring medical cannabis must still obtain a prescription from their physicians, and the store will not be licensed to fill it and is also not able to offer any medical advice.
“This store is strictly recreational,” says Giovannini, who believes that may prove confusing for new consumers.
In addition to Osmond, the new store will also generate anywhere from five to 10 jobs, depending on hours of operation and how well consumers respond.
“Pam and I are actively looking for employees for the store at the moment,” confirms Giovannini.
Staff will be trained to answer all questions, and to comply with the strict security measures mandated not only by the province but by Oceanic Releaf.
“There’s a ton of security measures from video surveillance to secured areas and of course this will be a Tier 1 cannabis retail location, so you’ll have to be 19 to actually get in the facility,” says Giovannini.
For her part, Osmond says while she is excited about the new store, she’s going to miss running her own salon and her regulars she refers to as family.
“The joke in town was I did therapy by day and nails for free,” laughs Osmond, who recently returned from four days of training in St. John’s. “A lot of them said, ‘I will come to visit you now.’”
“The town has been very supportive,” notes Giovanni. “This is a brand new era and, you know, it’s exciting and we just gotta ride it out.”