The recreational cannabis scene has changed a lot in the 20 months since federal legalization.
In the past year, at least three cannabis dispensaries have opened on Nipissing First Nation, the most recent being Northern Zen Cannabis on Osprey Miikan, just off Highway 17.
Friday, the dispensary invited social media followers and other VIPs to attend a “pre-opening” to thank them for their support.
And although Northern Zen shares the road with two other cannabis operations, owner Zachary Lacelle doesn’t believe the local market is getting over-saturated.
“Hopefully, the people will support all businesses on the First Nation,” Lacelle says. “I don’t want to be the only person” with a viable business.
Lacelle says he has been “trying to get involved in the industry probably since 2014,” looked into the legalities and issues around the business, but admits he had not initially planned to open a store.
But as the federal and provincial legislation began to allow for storefront operations, “I wasn’t going to pass on the opportunity.
“If you had the opportunity to try to do it, wouldn’t you try?”
He says a particular help came from Nipissing First Nation council, which has been supportive of “getting the industry started,” as well as from both the federal and provincial governments.
“They tried to give First Nations an opportunity to participate,” Lacelle says, although he admits “not all First Nations people are supportive” of the industry.”
One of the planned features of the outlet will be a sensory bar. Lacelle says he has held off on installing it over COVID-19 fears.
“I thought this was the safer route to go at this point,” he says, allowing staff to keep the store “a lot cleaner” without the feature.
Sensory bars allow customers to smell each cannabis strain’s terpene signature in an air-tight container.
Lacelle notes that all three businesses on the road are owned, like Northern Zen, by members of Nipissing First Nation, and all are independent operations.
That, he believes, is a strength of the businesses, especially with the push to support locally owned businesses in the middle of a COVID-19-inspired recession.
At this time, the business employs three people – Lacelle and employees Wylden Ray and Larry Newton.