Upstairs, this pub serves beer. Downstairs, the owner wants to sell pot

Maria Spitale-Leisk / Bowen Island Undercurrent

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Bowen Island Pub owner Glenn Cormier has set aside space for a marijuana shop in the new building set to open this spring. Photo Mike Wakefield

Glenn Cormier knows he has a customer base for his retail pot shop waiting to bloom on Bowen.

“For me, in all honesty on Bowen Island, the market that I’m going after is baby boomers,” said Cormier on Monday.

Surveying the new pub building set to finish construction this spring, Cormier points to three retail suites on the bottom floor.

In the middle there will be Fabulous Finds, with Catching Stars gallery to its right and, if all goes to plan, a store selling cannabis on the left.

Cormier, who has gone before Bowen council to present his plans, said there are a couple reasons he wants to bring retail pot sales here.

“First and foremost, I’m a big proponent for the cannabis plant and the wellness aspect of it all. But secondly, I’m a business person and this is new up-and-coming business. It’s going to be legalized and obviously there is an opportunity here on Bowen.”

With marijuana set to become legal later this year, Cormier is getting ahead of the game.

The Bowen Island Pub owner, who has made a career in B.C.’s hospitality industry, has been doing his cannabis research. He foresees that the marijuana sales landscape will change soon and that it will have a different look and feel to it.

“For me I’m not interested in having a store which has Bob Marley posters on the wall. I’m looking to have a place that’s professionally operated,” said Cormier, explaining customers won’t walk in the door and see a wall full of bongs and glass pipes.

“I’m marketing towards my demographic.”

Inside the 250-square-foot unit underneath the pub, Cormier plans to start slow, selling marijuana flowers, oils, extracts and topicals at first. The provincially regulated pot products, explained Cormier, will have been tested to meet certain safety standards.

Cormier said you won’t see jars of loose buds in the shop, but rather the cannabis flower sold in a pre-packaged format, with the potency level clearly labelled.

Further down the road, in a year predicted Cormier, you will see edibles arriving on the shelves.

Eventually, people will be buying cannabis products for pets, said Cormier, and ultimately he hopes any negative perception of the plant itself changes and its medicinal properties realized.

In addressing one common concern with pot shops, the potential for underage sales, Cormier said he’s in a position to handle that because he already has a liquor licence and understands the legalities.

“As a business owner I understand the most valuable thing I have is my licence,” said Cormier, who anticipates the pot shop being open between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Cormier’s process in bringing a pot shop to Bowen starts with the province, which will be handling the retail applications. The province will then send the vetted applications to local government, Bowen Island Municipality in this case, for their comment.

Bowen council recommended last week that planning staff draft bylaws to prohibit the cultivation, production, distribution and sale of marijuana. This move is meant to prevent, for example, somebody putting in a marijuana farm where horticulture is already allowed on Bowen.

“So to get ahead of that potential, possible problem, we make everything illegal and then we do spot zoning for people who make applications, Mayor Murray Skeels told the Undercurrent.

“By making a bylaw that prohibits everything we can then make bylaws that allow very specific things. I think a lot of municipalities will be doing this and particularly those that have rural areas within their borders.”

Cormier, who is the only person to approach the municipality thus far with a pot-related pitch, said Bowen doesn’t need to take spot zoning approach but he does believe “it could be a healthy way to go.”

A rezoning to bring retail marijuana sales to Bowen would require a public hearing and an opportunity for the community to ask questions and voice any concerns.

“And I would love to be the person they can ask questions of, because I have done a lot of research,” said Cormier.

He recently participated in a webinar put on by Able BC, a liquor lobbying organization, which broke down statistics of the percentage of Canadians who smoke pot daily, weekly, occasionally or never.

If you add up all the numbers, you get to 40 per cent, said Cormier.

“I do believe that the demographic here (on Bowen) might be a little higher than you would find in other municipalities just because of the makeup of our population,” said Cormier. “I think the baby boomer demographic on Bowen is a lot of ex-hippies.”

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