Hamilton's first legal pot shop set for Saturday opening

Hamilton's first-ever legal pot shop is opening Saturday at The Centre on Barton and owner Steven Fry has adequately prepared for a busy debut weekend.

Canna Cabana is one of two legal pot shops opening in Hamilton

Customers will be able ogle, feel and smell different strains of cannabis before making their purchase at Canna Cabana, which is set to open Saturday. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

When Canna Cabana Hamilton opens Saturday it will become the city's first legal retail cannabis store. 

Mayor Fred Eisenberger will be there to mark the occasion, cut the ribbon and officially open the shop to the public.

The store was fully staffed and operational as of Thursday, ready to open with a day to spare. Staff were there Thursday behind closed doors to run through various training exercises and troubleshooting scenarios they might encounter on opening day.

The aim is to be well-enough prepared to avoid opening-day problems that have caused long lines and delays at other legal dispensaries across the country.

But Steven Fry, owner of Canna Cabana, sounds confident speaking about opening Hamilton's first-ever legal pot shop.

"Selfishly, I hope there is a line," he admits.

Fry describes how he "moved mountains" to ensure the shop could be ready to open its doors on April 20, a significant date in the weed community known colloquially as 4/20.

Since being granted the license in January, opening on time required a lot of hard-working around the clock and rigorous employee training— that resulted in a "mad dash to the finish line."

It's a finish line Hamilton's other legal pot shop, Hello Cannabis, hasn't yet crossed.

Playing catch up

Both stores missed the first day they were legally allowed to open in the province, which was April 1. But it wasn't due to a lack of effort.

In the lead up to federal legalization last October, Premier Doug Ford's government swapped out the plan of government-owned stores with a new framework relying on private retailers.

That change, in addition to imposed regulations from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), substantially slowed down efforts to open pot shops on time.

Long lines have become synonymous with legal pot shop openings, like this store in Vancouver. (Zahra Premji/CBC)

The delayed start will hopefully be offset, Fry said, by a large turnout of an estimated 800 customers on opening day, which will be complete with a live band and a BBQ.

Now that most of the logistical hurdles are out of the way, Fry has switched his focus and set his sights on providing a "wonderful experience" for his customers.

"We're focusing on every little detail to make it perfect," he explained, noting that other stores who opened earlier made mistakes that could be learned from.

Standing in the store on Thursday, Fry described the space as a "cool, spacious and open environment." Glass displays house varying strains of cannabis, ready for purchase.

Most importantly for Fry, the environment is designed to feel safe — both the open layout and the well-informed shopping experience, from entry to check-out.

Well rounded readiness

In a 12-hour training day prior to opening, Canna Cabana staff learned the ins and outs of the products they'd soon be selling — getting familiar with the smell, feel, and effects of the strains.

They also got intensive customer service training in order to protect against swamping and slowing over opening weekend. Efficiencies in service will help to keep customers moving and keep lines short, Fry explained.

"I've got to give a big kudos to the Mayor and Sam Merulla," who have been very supportive of the store's opening, Fry said, as well as the police who have "stomped out illegal dispensaries."

Canna Cabana opens at 10 a.m. on Saturday at The Centre on Barton.


Justin Mowat


Justin Mowat is a reporter with CBC Hamilton and also spends time in Toronto at News Network. Reach him at: justin.mowat@cbc.ca

With files from Adam Carter


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