One of four cannabis companies conditionally approved by the province to offer retail sales of marijuana in Manitoba following legalization of the drug, expected by Oct. 17, announced plans July 3 to open four stores, including one in Thompson.
“I guess someone from outside of the province looking in and looking at Thompson and maybe some of the mills closing down and things like that, it might not seem like an attractive location but as a Manitoba-based company we certainly recognize that Thompson’s a large intake area or trade area, the gateway to the north is what we’ve been calling it,” said Delta 9 Cannabis Inc. CEO John Arbuthnot in a July 6 interview. “For us it was a very strategic location to get into in terms of not only servicing the area in and around Thompson but also the entirety of Northern Manitoba.”
Delta 9 will also open two stores in Winnipeg and one in Brandon, and has aims of having the first Winnipeg store open on the first day of legal marijuana sales, with the other locations set to open within a few months afterward.
“It’s still a little too early to say when our Thompson store will be open but we are targeting this calendar year,” Arbuthnot says. “Otherwise, and for those who are not able to make it to the store in Thompson, we will have mail order delivery to every corner of the province. We’ll have an online portal available Oct 17. We operate a full call centre right now on the medical side of our business. We’ll be expanding that out for recreational as well so those who need to get in touch with us for their supply of cannabis will certainly be able to do so.”
Delta 9 has not yet revealed where its Thompson store will be.
“We haven’t publicly disclosed our location,” Arbuthnot says. “We’ve been working on this for a few months and we’ll be making that disclosure public in the next few weeks but there’s nothing quite more that I can say on that at this point.”
Delta 9 has a contract to supply 2.3 million grams of marijuana in Manitoba in the first year of legalization, says Arbuthnot, who started the company with this father in 2013 as a medical marijuana supplier after his family was affected by someone’s illness.
“We saw firsthand the benefits that medical cannabis could have in the absence of traditional pharmaceutical drugs working so we certainly knew that medical marijuana was effective,” he said.
When they were first seeking investors for the business, Arbuthnot says he and his father would often be asked when they expected marijuana to be legal for recreational use in Canada.
“My father would always quip that it certainly won’t happen in his lifetime but it definitely will happen in mine and here we are five, six years later and the pace that things have picked up is rather incredible,” he says.
As a result, the plan to slowly and organically grow the business has also changed.
“Over 2017 we really started to kick things into high gear with legalization coming and we raised $34 million over the year and listed our company on the Toronto Ventures Exchange last fall in November so our shares do trade publicly now,” he said. “Really we’re building out … a large production facility here in Winnipeg. We’re investing about $17 million over the next two years really ramping up the cultivation capacity. We’re adding about 120 kilos of annualized production capacity every single week.”
Arbuthnot, who grew up in Winnipeg and attended the University of Manitoba, says the opportunity offered in jurisdictions like Manitoba that will allow privatized retail sales of marijuana is significant and that Delta 9 expects to expand retail operations before long.
“Beyond our first four stores, we’ll be ready to deploy additional stores in Manitoba by, I’ll say, January of next year. Of course there’s a million things we need to take care of between now and Oct. 17. We’re working quickly. We’re very much looking forward to doing business in Thompson and servicing the citizens there.”