Manitoba

Why the shortage of medical cannabis post-legalization has these 2 seeing opportunity

A couple behind an online cannabis smokeware business wants to expand to become medical producers to help fill a void left post-legalization.

Couple plan to open retail store in 2019 after smokeware business booming online

Mackenzie Mroz, right, and Kolten Sinkovits run an online business that sells smokeware for cannabis users. Mroz, who is a fourth generation grain and oil seed farmer, and her partner hope to be licensed by Health Canada to sell medical cannabis in the new year. (Submitted by Jessie Procyshyn)

When Mackenzie Mroz was a teenager, she dealt with constant back pain and lockjaw. The pain was so severe she started taking Advil to the point she'd faint after playing hockey while her stomach bled.

"I was so focused on trying to excel in hockey that I was ruining and deteriorating my health," she said.

Mroz, now 23, started searching for a remedy she could use to get rid of the pain that would allow her to go on to play college hockey. It didn't take long to find the medicine she was looking for. Her solution was cannabis.

So impressed by the medicinal benefits, Mroz decided to start sketching out plans for a marijuana business with her business partner and boyfriend Kolten Sinkovits in 2015.

I felt like if this can help me so much, there has to be other people out there that it can help as well.- Mackenzie Mroz 

"I felt like if this can help me so much, there has to be other people out there that it can help as well," she recalled thinking.

Mroz and Sinkovits turned the idea into reality by selling smokeware for the "aesthetically inclined" on a website launched last October called Cannabis Jar.

Store under construction 

Now, they're working to open a retail store at 240 Portage Ave. in the new year, which they hope will coincide with being licensed to sell medical cannabis. They are currently applying for a micro cultivation licence with Health Canada.

Mroz thinks her experience growing up on a farm combined with her University of Manitoba diploma in crop management and soils makes her the perfect candidate to grow medical marijuana to sell. She and her partner already have personal production licences that lets them grow marijuana plants for personal use at her farm in the Brokenhead, Man., area.

Mackenzie Mroz inside the retail store currently under construction on Portage Avenue. Mroz and her boyfriend plan to open the store in the new year. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

The couple have seen a spike of about 270 per cent in business in the month after legalization with customers taking advantage of the free citywide delivery service the company has for orders over $50.

"A lot of people have been finding that very accommodating especially with their work schedules," Mroz said.

She points out it's not just pipes and bongs the Cannabis Jar is selling. It also has CBD oils and bath bombs. Then there's the dog treats and creams for people living with joint problems, which she says have been a big hit with older customers.

"A lot of people even that they don't notice do have pain or an illness that can be treated with cannabis."

Medical users potential clients

Sinkovits and Mroz have been getting many calls from medical users who've been left in the lurch after legalization and want to target them as a customer base.

An artist's rendering shows what the store on Portage Avenue will look like inside. (Submitted by Jessie Procyshyn)

"We feel that they've been left out since legalization as well because I've heard numerous stories of licensed producers running out of medical supply and only focusing on the recreational supply," Sinkovits said.

He also thinks Manitoba missed the mark by only allowing four retailers to sell recreational cannabis at locations across the province.

"I think that it's only helping the big guys."

Sinkovits said smaller players could have offered a different experience by setting up mom-and-pop shops for consumers.

If licensed by Health Canada, the couple hope to employ 25 people in the new retail store and another 25 to start at Mroz's farm in the Brokenhead area. Mroz said while she and Sinkovits have been funding the business so far, they have a few potential investors lined up who are interested in the medical aspect of it.

"Really excited to get rolling on that, and we should be pitching [to potential investors] in a few weeks," she said.

Mackenzie Mroz and Kolten Sinkovits plan to open retail store in 2019 after their smokeware business started booming online. 2:02

About the Author

​Austin Grabish started reporting when he was young, landing his first byline when he was just 18. He joined CBC in 2016 after freelancing for several outlets. ​​In 2018, he was part of a team of CBC journalists who won the Ron Laidlaw Award for the corporation's extensive digital coverage on asylum seekers crossing into Canada. Email: austin.grabish@cbc.ca