Imagine an Apple store.
Clean. Antiseptic. Modern and perfect.
White floors, white tables and white walls, further brightened with intensely cheerful LED lights, to put the focus on the merchandise - dozens of varieties precisely presented on bar-height tables, inside clear plastic containers, connected to thick wire cords, just like iPhones and iPads.
Shoppers can pull the plastic container towards them to closely examine the bud inside and then pull back the top for a sniff.
Beside each plastic container are information tags inside clear plastic holder that provide the name of the product, details on potency and its specific content of THC and CBD, along with descriptors right out of a Scotch whisky handbook.
"Citrus and diesel with a hint of pepper," one read.
A whole wall of fancy posters that look like they came from a scientific conference explain all of the health and technical details about marijuana, such as the difference between THC and CBD.
Another wall holds glass cases with various bongs, grinders, pipes and other products for sale to the discerning consumer.
Scattered on the tables throughout the store are little boxes containing small pencils and order sheets. Shoppers can either fill out a sheet or just go to the long counter and verbally tell staff what they want to buy and how much.
Prerolled joints come in black cardboard packs not much different from cigarette packs. The contents inside are sealed in plastic and then each individual joint is further sealed in plastic, both to preserve freshness and also to avoid any unwanted smell.
This is the B.C. Cannabis Store in Kamloops, found in the Columbia Place Shopping Centre, right next to a Papa John's pizza place and a Save-On-Foods store.
The same kind of design and presentation will be used in the B.C. Cannabis Store in Prince George, once it opens in the Westgate Shopping Centre. The only remaining obstacle after Monday's public hearing (with only former School District 57 trustee Bruce Wiebe speaking in opposition) is a rubber stamp final approval from city council. Mayor and council have already spoken in favour of both the store and its location in a standalone building that once housed a bank.
As slick and glossy as the Kamloops store is, every retailer knows that it's the staff that complete the customer experience and the store employees deliver, from the greeter at the door to the knowledgeable and helpful workers on the floor and at the counter. Like the clientele inside the store, the employees run the gamut, from millennials to people who are now only asked for ID when they're claiming a seniors discount.
A retirement age couple approaches a female employee in her 20s seeking a recommendation for what they should buy to help with arthritis and aches and pains. The young staffer gives a polite, well-rehearsed response with a smile because she's probably already been asked a similar question dozens of times before.
This store sells cannabis for recreational use, she informs them. We can't give you advice on using cannabis for health purposes. You should consult your doctor about that.
The couple is disappointed but pleased with the answer that is both honest and doesn't make them feel stupid. They thank her for her help and she asks them if they have any other questions.
If this is both the present and the future of cannabis retailing in B.C. and Canada, the days of anyone's willingness to buy pot from the guy down the street or the dude they went to high school with will come to a quick end, once outstanding issues around supply, price and edible products are sorted out. A safe, clean, government-approved product will win out over some cheap weed laced with God knows what that came from who knows where.
There will be ongoing issues to wrestle with in the new reality of legal marijuana, from keeping it out of the hands of children to impaired driving, but selling it in a consumer-friendly setting to adults making their own choices is the right way to go.
-- Editor-in-chief Neil Godbout