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NSLC unveils retail cannabis plan

The interior of the NSLC cannabis outlet is shown in this artist’s concept design.
The interior of the NSLC cannabis outlet is shown in this artist’s concept design. - Submitted

Blue Dream? Excellent choice. Will that be prewrapped, dried flower or oil?

The Nova Scotia Liquor Corp. will have a head-spinning selection of cannabis products ready for customers when federal legislation gets the green light.

Officials rolled out the first draft of their cannabis plan at a news conference at NSLC headquarters in Bayers Lake on Monday. Surrounded by posters of store-design concepts and accompanied by a slideshow, they talked about things like branding, social responsibility policies and what their customers can expect at their cannabis outlets.

The drug will be sold in “storewithin- a-store” sections in existing NSLC outlets, set off by opaque glass and a separate entrance. The exception will be a cannabis-only outlet on Clyde Street in Halifax, where customers will get a more in-depth buying experience, including a whiff of the different scents and strains on hand.

Anyone over 19 will be able to buy a maximum 30 grams per visit but don’t expect to be in and out with your stash in short order.

“This is a very different business for us,” said Tim Pellerin, the NSLC’s senior vice-president and operating officer. “On average, we’ve been told (it will take) about 10 minutes per transaction that we will interact with a customer (and) as much as 18 minutes and above for those highly involved first-timers. We’re going to attempt to give those folks as much service and attention as possible.”

As for what you’ll pay, that’s still to be worked out. The Atlantic premiers have said the four provinces would try to come up with a common

price per gram to avoid the cross-border issues that currently plague alcohol sales.

An artist’s conception at Monday’s presentation showed a NSLC cannabis “concierge” standing in front of a wall of cabinets with categories such as enhanced, relaxed and unwind.

The customer will join a queue similar to a bank line for access to the cannabis concierge, who will help them choose a strain (Purple Haze, Blue Dream, etc.) and form (pre-rolled joint, dried flower, oil and gel cap).

The Clyde Street outlet will carry about 300 products while about 150 products will be available in 11 other stores across the province.

Accessories such as papers, grinders, lockable storage containers and vapourizers will also be offered.

“We know we’re not going to get this perfect the first time when it comes to product assortment,” Pellerin said. “The team has worked very hard to understand where the marketplaces around the world have been moved to.”

You’ll need a valid governmentissued photo ID, such as a driver’s licence, passport, citizenship card or Certificate of Indian Status card. But don’t bother rifling through your purse for that Air Miles card. No promotions or incentives can be offered on cannabis purchases. Unlike the alcohol section where minors are allowed if accompanied by adults, only people 19 and over will be allowed into the cannabis store, Pellerin said.

Besides the direct retail sales, an online store will offer home delivery of 450 products. (Nova Scotia’s legislation also allows people to grow up to four plants at home).

The NSLC plans to be ready for customers by July 1 but it’s unclear when federal legislation to legalize recreational cannabis will get the green light. The House of Commons cleared theCannabis Act Bill C-45 in November but the Senate is still mulling over the legislation.

As part of its Need to Know social responsibility strategy, the NSLC will encourage people to start low (as in THC levels) and go slow. And besides the usual refrain of don’t drive while impaired, customers also will be advised not to mix their buzz with booze.

“Separate is best,” said Pellerin, who was joined at the news conference by Brett Mitchell, the NSLC’s president and CEO, and David DiPersio, senior vice-president and chief services officer.

“There are a lot of unknowns in terms of combining with alcohol. We suggest keeping these products separate.”

While cannabis newbies in particular might be grappling with information overload, the NSLC experience won’t include medical advice or products.

If you’ve been authorized by your health-care practitioner and Health Canada to get cannabis for medical purposes, you’ll still be able to buy it from a licensed producer, grow your own for your medical use, or designate someone to grow it for you, according to the provincial government’swebsite.

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