London's first retail cannabis store ready to open April 1st

London's first and only legal cannabis retail store will be ready to open by April 1st, it's owners say. Construction is underway at Central Cannabis' location at Oxford and Wonderland to meet the provincially-imposed deadline.

Central Cannabis faces steep fines if it fails to meet the provincially-imposed deadline

Construction crews work to renovate Central Cannabis, London's first legal retail cannabis store. Travis Dolynny/CBC

The drywall is up, cabinets are about to go in, the majority of staff is hired, and in less than two weeks, London's first legal cannabis retail store will open for business.

The store is among seven that could spring up in the west region. A total of 25 companies in Ontario are eligible to operate pot shops. 

Construction is now underway at its location at Wonderland Road and Oxford Street to get the doors open by April 1st. If Central Cannabis fails to open by then, it will face steep fines from the province.

Jon Conquergood is the CEO of Ontario Cannabis Holdings, which has been hired by Central Cannabis to get the doors open on time. He is confident they will meet the deadline.

"We're just past the drywall stage in terms of the construction on the interior. We have all the cabinetry to go in later this week, but we're fully on schedule to have all the major construction done by Monday or Tuesday of next week and we'll be ready to open the doors on April 1st," said Conquergood.

(Travis Dolynny/CBC)

Product has been ordered and should arrive by the middle of next week, he added. Most of the 45 staff have also been hired.

There are more than 1,800 strains of marijuana. Staff now have to be trained to be able to provide information about the differences. 

"Training begins this coming Monday, so it's a tight timeline. We've got a week of training to go through all the regulatory requirements. There are a lot of things we have to be careful for and train for from both the federal and provincial level to make sure we're not selling to minors, that we're not saying inappropriate things, and just make sure that people can provide a great customer experience."

It's a great customer experience that Conquergood believes will have shoppers preferring to purchase their pot in person, rather than online. "They get to see and smell the product that we have on display. They can choose the strain that best suits them. And they can get all the customer service and education that they could ever want coming into the store, versus online which is very transactional based."    

There is also added anonymity when shopping in person for those still concerned about potential stigma of purchasing marijuana. 

Central Cannabis will have to pass a provincial inspection before it can open.

Two more applications for retail cannabis stores in London are currently before the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario. "Tweed" has applied for a location at 1025 Wellington Road, just north of Bradley Avenue. "J. London" has applied for a location at 691 Richmond Street, south of Oxford.

Both applications are being reviewed by the province.


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