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Private marijuana stores to open in Sarnia – just not yet

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Troy Shantz

Martin Lacombe has grand plans for what he hopes will be Sarnia’s first legal, private cannabis store.

“We’re all set to go, all our ducks are in a row. (We’re) dying to get this,” said the co-owner of Tugboat Vaping Co., a downtown store Lacombe and his partners want to turn into a pot shop.

The company has sold vaping products and accessories on Christina Street for three years, but is ready to relocate the vaping to make way for marijuana products, he said.

“(The pot) will be under glass, with holes, so you can smell it,” he said with a smile, pointing to a spot intended for display cases.

After getting favourable feedback from residents, Sarnia City council voted on Dec. 17 to “opt-in” to Ontario’s private retail model for cannabis stores.
“It’s happening, whether we opt in or we opt out,” said Coun. Brian White, one of seven council members who supported the move.

“So we can decide whether we have partners at the table, through retail shops — private owners who can discuss issues with us as we grow through this process.”

Just two of the nine council members — David Boushy and Margaret Bird — were opposed.

However, it won’t happen right away. Citing a nationwide shortage of legal cannabis, the provincial government announced Dec. 13 it will phase in the granting of retail licences.

Only 25 cannabis stores will be allowed to open April 1. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission will hold a lottery Jan. 7- 9 with the winners announced Jan. 11.

Mayor Mike Bradley said he has long supported the concept of local retail, but added the provincial lottery sounds like something from a Cheech and Chong movie.

“When they solve the supply problem, then obviously the number of licences will increase,” he said.

Lacombe said even if his company doesn’t ‘win’ one of the early permit his plan won’t change, noting applicants must be in a city that’s opted-in.

Despite the fact the federal government has been unable to supply sufficient volumes of cannabis to consumers so far, he’s happy to wait until the shortage is resolved.
“I was worried about opening up a store, having product for a day, then being out of stock for three months,” he said.

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