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Couchiching could get second cannabis store

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Couchiching First Nation could be getting a second cannabis dispensary following changes to the regulations that license stores on reserves.

Ontario Regulation 468/18 originally permitted eight stores for First Nation communities, and one per reserve, but on Oct. 22 it was amended to allow for up to 26 cannabis outlets, while lifting the cap of one store per community.

Couchiching band councillor Ron Archie applied for a cannabis license during the selection process for the first eight stores on First Nations, that were given on a first come, first served basis in July, and even though he was one of the first eight applicants to submit, Wasaw Enterprises was quicker and received the allocation.

But Coun. Archie was recently notified by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) that the cap of one store per community has been lifted, so he's applying for one of the 26 newly available store authorizations.

If successful, he will build the store adjacent to the CC Complex under the name Dreamcatcher Cannabis.

“A lot of American tourists actually stop and ask at the CC Complex about where they can find cannabis,” Coun. Archie noted.

“Once the word gets out next spring and once Americans are rolling through again and they see the retail outlet . . . people may be surprised about their appetite for it.”

Coun. Archie told the Times he's been planning for the store since March, and has created a business plan as well as acquired funding, while its concept is still being determined.

“There's a quick setup option that I've been exploring and then there's more brick and mortar kind of options I've been exploring as well,” Coun. Archie explained.

Depending on the licensing approval process, he said a flagship store could be open in May, while a quick setup option would open mid-winter.

A brick and mortar storefront could house as many as 10 employees, whereas a smaller scale operation would employ a few less people.

Coun. Archie is currently exploring branding options with retail operating partners to determine the store concept and retail experience for customers.

“There's a few more meetings I've got to have and then I'll have a better idea of where I'm going-how these things are going to roll out,” he explained.

Going forward the AGCO said it will reach out to applicants regarding next steps and will provide additional information on the licensing process and eligibility requirements.

The AGCO is unsure of a precise date when stores could be up and running by, noting the process is efficient but thorough, as it involves a comprehensive eligibility assessment of the applicants.

Meanwhile, Wasaw Enterprise's cannabis store, which will be located on Couchiching, has obtained its license and is set to open by the summer of 2020 or sooner.

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