Top News

High Street owners take an enterprising approach to preparing for legalized cannabis

Jon Keefe (left) and Ross Barney are the co-owners of High Street, a retail shop on the east end of Duckworth Street in downtown St. John’s where they currently sell paraphernalia used for consumption of cannabis.
Jon Keefe (left) and Ross Barney are the co-owners of High Street, a retail shop on the east end of Duckworth Street in downtown St. John’s where they currently sell paraphernalia used for consumption of cannabis. - Kenn Oliver

As Canada moves closer to the legalization of recreational cannabis this year, a large number of companies looking to cash in on the new industry have already been incorporated.

Many are going about it quietly, choosing to play their cards close to their chest in anticipation of the day when Bill C-45 is passed into law.

Others, like Jon Keefe and Ross Barney, the co-owners of High Street in downtown St. John’s, are getting ahead of the game.

But until the federal government passes the legislation and they’re given the green light by the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corp. (NLC) to start selling various strains of marijuana, you won’t find any bud behind their counter at 206 Duckworth St.

“That’s the short game. We’re in it for the long game,” says Barney, who admits that every 20th person through the door is looking to purchase recreational drugs. “We’re in it because we want to be legitimate.”

“We put a lot of time and effort into this place already and there’s still a bit of work to do, but we’ve tried really hard to make a nice, welcoming place. We don’t want to spoil that by putting our toe over the line early,” adds Keefe.

“We’re not just a couple of weirdos sprung up in the middle of the neighborhood slinging dime bags. We’re here to be a part of the community.”

But they believe there is merit in being ready to be among the first to cross the line when the time comes, and that goes beyond simply setting up a welcoming storefront.

In anticipation of the licence application process in the NLC’s request for proposals, Barney and Keefe are obtaining letters of conduct and will seek training for age verification through the liquor board.

“When the NLC is ready to give licences, we’re ready to be compliant,” says Barney.

In the meantime, the plan is to build a customer base through the sale of assorted smoking paraphernalia, with emphasis on concentrate smoking tools and devices. (Concentrates are the potent product of cannabinoid extraction processes that aim to extract the resin in plant matter while eliminating the plant itself. Many of the popular varieties require solvents such as alcohol or butane.)

At High Street, Barney and Keefe will try to steer people toward the rosin variety, which is made using a combination of heat and pressure to extract the concentrate.

“It’s the healthiest form of concentrates compared to anything else you’ll buy,” says Barney.

Since the legal sale of concentrates won’t come into effect until 2019 at the earliest, High Street will offer do-it-yourself squish kits for customers to make their own at home.

There are also plans to expand a reference section where customers can thumb through some books on all things cannabis or use a tablet to do some research on a specific strain.

That element of education is part of the appeal for Barney and Keefe in that it helps break down the stigma and taboos associated with cannabis consumption.

“Already, there’s all walks of life coming in here. Most of the people who come in here are boomers or older,” says Keefe. “I always knew, but it’s refreshing to see people coming out and starting to show their faces.”

Of course, all their plans and hopes for High Street hinge on the bill being passed in Ottawa, a process that could be slowed considerably as it makes its way through the Senate, which has already indicated it is not prepared to meet the government’s timetable.

“The Conservative Senate is holding on to it and putting it under a microscope,” says Barney. “If they do it out of due diligence rather than obstruction, then we’ll all have a better C-45 bill, but if they’re doing it out of obstruction …”

It also relies heavily on the specifics of NLC’s plan as the regulatory body for cannabis sales.

“We’re as ready as we can be for the storefront, all we’ve got to do is put the weed on the shelves, but we still don’t know even what it’s going to look like,” says Keefe.

They expect more news on the NLC’s request for proposals within the next month.

kenn.oliver@thetelegram.com

Twitter: kennoliver79

Recent Stories