Cora Muellner is getting used to the question every time she wears her new work hoodie out: “Are you open?”
“Finally,” she says with obvious relief. “We’re legal. We’re open. We’re licensed.”
Muellner is the manager of Buddy’s Place, which opened Dec. 4 after waiting over a year post legalization in October 2018.
The store, formerly Leaf Cross, is only the second cannabis retail store to open in Nelson after Kootenay Cannabis Tree began operating in November.
The opening of the store is notable for how unlikely it once seemed.
In February, the city approved three out of four applications for recreational cannabis stores. Kootenay Cannabis Tree was given the lone spot in what has been designated the Lakeside/Industrial zone, while Nelson Potorium and The Green Room won a lottery for the two available spots downtown.
That left Buddy’s Place, located downtown at 356 Baker St., on the outside looking in.
But in March, the city gave Buddy’s Place a three-year temporary use permit to operate downtown. Nine months later, the store that wasn’t supposed to be selling cannabis downtown is open while Nelson Potorium and The Green Room remain shuttered.
Part of the reason for the long wait is the difficulty aspiring owners have in navigating strict federal regulations that include detailed financial and background checks. Prices for cannabis in the legal market are also up to $1.78 per gram more than what can be purchased illegally, according to a Statistics Canada report in October.
Muellner said the store’s closest supplier is currently in Creston, but that will eventually change.
“We’re noticing a lot of really great stuff right now coming onto the market, especially as [the craft industry] has opened up,” she said. “A lot of our previous suppliers from Leaf Cross have applied and are taking those steps to be able to supply the community, province and even Canada by applying for those craft micro-cultivation licenses.”
In the meantime, Buddy’s Place is making do with the supply it has access to. The main hurdle, which was to open its doors to customers, has been finally cleared.
“It’s been a wild ride,” said Muellner. “It’s been a lot of work.”