Saskatoon

Budding prospects: Saskatoon sees boom in cannabis stores

Saskatoon is going through a cannabis boom. There are 24 pot stores now open across the city and permits have been approved for another eight.

24 stores now open, approval given for another 8

Signs of the times from Eighth Street East in Saskatoon. (Dan Zakreski/CBC)

Cierra Sieben-Chuback calls it "Pot Street."

Sieben-Chuback owns Living Skies Cannabis, one of the original six cannabis stores that opened in the city when the federal government legalized recreational cannabis in October 2018.

She opened her flagship store downtown. Since then, she has opened three new stores in the past year, including one on Eighth Street East. The thoroughfare is now home to seven cannabis stores, hence the nickname.

"They seem to be everywhere you look," she said. "I mean, here on Eighth Street, there's so many stores."

Cierra Sieben-Chuback owns four cannabis stores in Saskatoon. (CBC)

Two significant changes made it easier for the stores to open.

In September 2020, the province removed the cap on the number of stores allowed, leaving the market to decide how many could be sustained. 

Then the city cut the licensing fee from $20,000 to $4,500.

"Right now, if I'm driving around and I see a for lease sign, I almost assume it's going to be a cannabis store, or my mind goes there instantly. Like, would that be a good location for a cannabis store?" she said.

"It seems that everybody's trying to get in on this right now, now that the opportunity is kind of open for everyone else." 

Geoff Conn is manager at The Pot Shack, another of the original six retail outlets. There are two Pot Shack outlets, including one off Eighth Street East.

Conn looks at the rapidly evolving marketplace with dismay. He believes the market is already past the saturation point and that not all the stores open today will still be open in a year's time.

"We've surpassed it. I believe that Saskatoon really, after all the dust settles, will be sufficient for maybe 11, 12 stores," he said.

Conn said that people need only look at the boom-and-bust pattern with convenience stores and coffee shops to see what's going to happen with pot stores.

"Really what happened was, there was a convenience store on every corner and then 7-11 and Red Rooster came in and those little independent convenience stores went away," he said.

"So it's going to be the same attrition with the cannabis industry."

Jeffrey Lundstrom is a longtime cannabis advocate and business owner in Saskatoon. (CBC)

Jeffrey Lundstrom said this is a risky time to be involved in the retail side of cannabis. Lundstrom is a longtime medical marijuana advocate, organizer of an annual competition for growers and owner of the head shop Skunk Funk Smoker Emporium.

He said cannabis users may benefit in the short run from the convenience of so many locations and the competitive pricing, but that in the long run, business owners are going to go broke.

"We'll just watch those people that can survive, will, and they'll be the last ones left," he said.

"The guys who can't, they'll just close the door and lose their shirt, lose everything. And that's a horrible way to do business."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Zakreski is a reporter for CBC Saskatoon.

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