Hamilton

Former owner of Cannabis Culture becomes general manager of legal store in Brantford

Britney Guerra, a long-time cannabis legalization advocate who operated dispensaries while cannabis was illegal, is becoming the general manager of Harvest Cannabis.

Britney Guerra says she's 'super excited' to transition into the legal market

Britney Guerra of Hamilton, who had advocated for cannabis legalization and for pardoning those with marijuana charges, is now a general manager of a legal store. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

An outspoken cannabis legalization advocate who opened Hamilton's first illegal dispensary is becoming the general manager of a legal marijuana retail store. 

Britney Guerra, former owner of Hamilton's Cannabis Culture location, has been named manager of Harvest Cannabis, which opened a month ago at 59 Dalhousie Street, Brantford. 

Guerra opened "legacy market" stores — shops that sold cannabis while it was still illegal — in both Hamilton and Brantford. She says she's "super excited" to transition into the legal market.

"I was committed to providing recreational cannabis to adults in Canada when legalization was promised. So why wouldn't I transition to the legal market when I have been preaching for legalization for the last twelve years of my life, my entire adult life," she said in a media release. 

Everything on the shelves has been approved for sale by the government. It's been tested and labelled with packaging dates and consumer information.  

Guerra was a defendant in the Project Gator busts, which was a Toronto Police Service project that targeted marijuana dispensaries across Canada. She pled guilty, as did activists Jodie and Marc Emery, to a number of drug-related charges in court. 

Guerra "remains proud of her activist past today — but reflects that she's seen the inside of more cells and courtrooms than she wants to remember" says the release. 

Getting her cannabis store retail management license, she said, was a lengthy process.  

"It was a whole legal process," she said. "It took eight months, two police interviews with the [Ontario Provincial Police] so I could work in the store as the general manager at Harvest." 

While on probation for charges relating to the Project Gator, she operated CannaGems in Hamilton's International Village, and sold marijuana-inspired jewelry. 

A media release says people would recognize Guerra's aesthetic at Harvest from when she ran her first dispensary, Hamilton's Medicine Cabinet, and called it "lovely, airy, and well designed."

Despite transitioning to the legal market, Guerra says that she will never denounce the "legacy market" and believes people should be able to "shop where they want and have that freedom of choice." 

For her, the legal environment is safer, she says, meaning fewer concerns about potential arsons and robberies, which can be reported without fear of getting charges pressed against her. 

"But as a mother now, and someone with a criminal record — I'm more comfortable in the legal market — I can't afford to go to jail, I can't afford to lose time with my child," she said. 

What's also changed in the transition, Guerra said, is the profit margins. Estimates of illegal cannabis markets put profit margins around 80 to 90 per cent, according to the media release, while most of Ontario's legal stores hover around 25 to 35 per cent. 

While the city of Brantford initially opposed the location of the store, Guerra says she's since been welcomed by the community and the BIA. 

Guerra has also consulted for other cannabis retail industry operators, including opening another dispensary, Brant Cannabis at 168 Charing Cross, two other projects in Hamilton, including Neku Cannabis in Hess Village and Attic Pizza in Stoney Creek. 

Attic Pizza has since shut down its indoor dining, the release says, and that space is being used for another Neku Cannabis location.

Guerra says Woodstock Cannabis and another Brantford store, Cloud Nine Cannabis, are also in the works.

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