Bonnyville welcomes first cannabis retailer

Residents attend open house to find out what all the buzz is about

Residents had high expectations for the first cannabis retailer in Bonnyville, and Canna Cabana didn’t kill their buzz.

“I think it was a long time coming, especially in a town like this,” expressed customer Austin Anderson.

The store officially started serving customers on Aug. 21, becoming the town’s first legal recreational cannabis retailer.

“We spent three weeks getting everything prepared to open up to the community, and we were finally able to open our doors,” expressed store manager Lindsay Leighton. “It went off without a hitch, and it went really good.”

The staff were excited to be the first to offer cannabis-related services in Bonnyville.

“It was quite empowering, and it’s nice because most of our staff have actually been here for a long time. They’re actually getting to help their friends and family, so it’s all familiar faces when people come in,” Leighton said.

Canna Cabana is located at 5506-50 Ave. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week.

The location in town is among 14 stores across Alberta for High Tide Inc. The Alberta-based chain, which manufactures and distributes smoking accessories and cannabis lifestyle products through retailers such as Smoker’s Corner and Famous Brandz, is the parent company for Canna Cabana.

Nick Kuzyk, chief strategy officer and vice president of capital markets for High Tide Inc., described Canna Cabana as “one of Canada’s leading recreational retailers of cannabis at the moment.”

While attending the grand opening on Saturday, Aug. 24, Bonnyville-native Madison Driedger was blown away by what the store has to offer.

“I didn’t even know this one was going to be here, and that sign has been here for a long time. I wasn’t expecting this at all, it’s almost too much. My debit card says it’s too much,” she said.

Fellow shopper Marilyn, who requested her last name not be printed, described Canna Cabana as beautiful location.

“I had no idea what to expect, and I was pleasantly surprised,” she exclaimed.

During the process of getting the store ready for opening day, Leighton said there were a number of aspects they focused on.

“It was just finding the correct stock to have, the proper displays, and to just make sure it was an overly welcoming environment so it wasn’t dark and shady looking.”

Kuzyk added, “The store is beautiful and has a playful and approachable vibe. The tropical accents on the inside and the colours that we’ve selected are very fun and enjoyable. I think, upon entering the store, people will smile and they’ll be in for a great experience.”

Driedger and Anderson agreed the Bonnyville location will be a convenient option for them.

“(Buying in) Cold Lake or online is kind of annoying,” Anderson added.

Those that stopped by Canna Cabana’s grand opening agreed the tenders were knowledgeable and well-versed in the products the location has available.

“We’ve been trained extensively in the area of all points of the store, including our accessories which is really nice… They can make suggestions for new or older smokers, depending on which side of the spectrum they fall on,” detailed Leighton, adding it was important to hire people that could add a fun energy to the shopping experience to ensure customers are comfortable coming in to discuss their needs.

“A lot of myths are that people can’t function on it. That people can’t do their work, they won’t be able to focus, and they can’t continue with their day. A major part with that is they weren’t aware of the different strains they should get, and the different purposes behind it.”

Marilyn hopes stores such as Canna Cabana help eliminate the negative connotations around the drug.

“It’s the older generations, they think it’s a bunch of hippies out getting stoned. The whole education has to change, and will change,” she said.

So far, municipal bylaws haven’t posed any problems for the retailer.

“Honestly, for us, it was very easy to follow. The amount of store hours they left open for us to be able to be open is more than enough… There haven’t been any issues at all, nobody’s popped by to say, ‘hey, do you mind changing this to follow the bylaws and policies?’ Even our inspector said this was the classiest looking store he’d walked into,” Leighton exclaimed.

Leighton is hoping Canna Cabana will integrate into the community, and aims to offer a safe place for people to learn more about recreational cannabis.