The Tseshaht are Vancouver Island’s first Aboriginal community to open a government-approved cannabis store, with a pot shop introduced today at the First Nation’s market on the highway to Tofino.
The 100-per-cent Tseshaht-owned Orange Bridge Cannabis formally opens to the public today at 7583 Pacific Rim Highway, located west of Port Alberni at the Tseshaht Market on the First Nation’s reserve land. With a staff of six employees – including five Tseshaht members – Orange Bridge Cannabis currently offers a variety of marijuana buds, and plans to expand their selection of products once regulations allow.
Named after the Highway 4 bridge across the Somass River that was once painted a memorable colour recalled by generations of Alberni Valley residents, Orange Bridge Cannabis have been in development for at least a year, after Canada’s Liberal government announced the legalization of marijuana for non-medicinal use. The initiative began with direction from the Tseshaht community to explore cannabis retail, said Watts. After seeing presentations on the opportunity from federal, provincial and municipal officials, the First Nation opted to own the store entirely.
“We could have partnered with a number of people but, at the end of the day, I think the nation wanted 100 per cent of the profits and to determine the employment themselves,” explained Tseshaht Councillor Ken Watts. “Definitely our return on investment is going to pay off quite well, based on our projections.”
The cannabis store first opened for the Labour Day weekend, but waited until Sept. 11 to regularly sell products. As marijuana retail is now managed by B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, red tape and government approvals have been extensive, including a detailed record check for employees and rules preventing the touching or consumption of cannabis in the store.
“We decided to go through the licencing route for a number of factors,” said Watts, who expects that the tight regulations will discourage interference from organized crime. “The staff have all been trained on the matters of percentages of THC and the other percentages that you require for each product.”
After recreational marijuana use became legalized last October, B.C.’s regulators have received hundreds of retail applications. Port Alberni city council has approved nearly half a dozen stores, including a provincial branch expected to open later this year, but Orange Bridge Cannabis…