Spiritleaf Vernon provides a growing array of cannabis products

Sarah Ballantyne will often tell a customer at her Vernon cannabis retail store to say hi to his or her mom for her. It’s not that the owner of the Spiritleaf outlet necessarily knows the mom personally, it’s just likely the mom is a customer too.

It’s an example of how mainstream the cannabis retail business has become in Canada in the last two-and-a-half years since cannabis was legalized by the federal government. Retail stores, like Ballantyne’s Spiritleaf outlet at 102-2500 53 Street in Vernon, now sell everything from the traditional dried flower and cannabis oils to cannabis-infused drinks, edibles, concentrates and topicals.

“The future is really limitless,” says Ballantyne. “It’s based on innovation and technology.”

The former government worker, who moved to Vernon from Alberta with her husband in 2018 to open her store, says business has continued to grow since the opening despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. She says when the pandemic was declared, she thought she may have to shut down for a while but instead was very pleased when cannabis was deemed essential.

It prompted her to extend the store’s hours, hire more staff and even extend the seniors’ discount it offers to its older customers. Hours went to seven days a week from the previous one day per week. The large, clean, inviting store, located in a building that houses several professional businesses, has a well-trained and knowledgeable staff of eight — more in the summer months — and was the first legal cannabis retail store in Vernon. Thanks to its level of service, product quality and knowledgeable staff, it has become popular with customers of all ages, says Ballantyne.

With legalization and the arrival of retail stores in Canada carrying an ever-increasing variety of cannabis products, the stigma that once engulfed cannabis use in this country has virtually vanished. Buying cannabis is now equated by some with buying wine, as different strains abound and stores can now seek out craft producers and request their products through the provincial wholesaler that handles distribution of cannabis across B.C.

Ballantyne says at first, because of demand, regulation and the pressure of starting a retail industry virtually from scratch, the variety of cannabis products was limited. The government only had a few licensed producers to buy from. But that has now changed and Ballantyne is seeing an increase in the number of local craft producers who are supplying the government with their products. Stores like Ballantyne’s can now request specific products, which the government wholesaler can then go out and procure. That allows stores like Spiritleaf in Vernon to provide its customers with the best possible array of cannabis strains and products.

“In our case, we have really scaled up (over the first two years),” says Ballantyne. She is looking forward to more product changes in the future, as well as modifications to current rules to let customers have even greater choice. Currently, customers can only buy a maximum of 30 grams of cannabis at a time and, in the case of cannabis-infused drinks, because of how that is equated, it limits how many drinks can be bought at one time. Ballantyne said she would like to see a change that would allow a customer to buy a six-pack of drinks, similar to how beer is currently sold. She hopes to see changes made as consultation between the government and industry continues.

Spiritleaf in Vernon is a franchise, one of 85 Spiritleaf stores across the country.

In B.C., there are Spiritleaf stores in Vernon, Kelowna, West Kelowna, Penticton, Castlegar and Maple Ridge. With the annual 4-20 day celebration of cannabis coming up, Ballantyne is inviting the public — aged 19 and older — to visit the store and learn more about cannabis products and their potential benefits.

For more on the Spiritleaf store in Vernon, go to www.spiritleaf.ca or call (236) 426-2230.







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