Privately-held cannabis producer Thrive Cannabis says an upcoming retail store at its indoor and outdoor production site in Jarvis, Ontario, will be the first farm-gate cannabis store in the province and, by extension, all of Canada.
Thrive received its Retail Store Authorization (RSA), which is required to open a legal cannabis store in Ontario, late Tuesday ahead of its pre-opening inspection early Wednesday.
As of last Friday, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), which regulates cannabis stores in the province, told Marijuana Business Daily it had received applications for farm-gate stores from 14 licensed marijuana producers, and had approved six initial Retail Operator Licenses, including one for Thrive.
Ontario cleared the way for farm-gate cannabis sales in late 2018 following lobbying by licensed producers.
A farm-gate cannabis retail program is also anticipated in British Columbia, although the B.C. government previously told MJBizDaily that program would not launch until 2022.
Thrive’s vice president of strategic initiatives, Robyn Rabinovich, told MJBizDaily that the store will open for curbside pickup in light of COVID-19 public health restrictions pending the results of the inspection.
Rabinovich said Thrive sees “a ton of value in providing an authentic, transparent opportunity for consumers to come down (and) learn about what makes our product premium.”
The company focuses on producing concentrates and premium dried flower under its Greybeard brand, as well as noncombustible products under the Being brand.
Rabinovich said Thrive is still considering “creative ways” to give farm-gate shoppers a firsthand look at its production operations.
“From an internal perspective, we really have to maintain quality, security, and keep our indoor cultivation a little bit less at reach,” she said.
“But because we do cultivate outdoors, we’re really excited to bring unique experiences for individuals to connect more with that soil-to-oil process, and get a deeper level of education and understanding of why we make the products we do and the processes behind it.”
Rival products on offer
Thrive’s vice president of business development and ethos Bubba Nicholson said the 1,120 square-foot farm-gate store will also sell a limited selection of products from Thrive’s competitors.
“We’re not going to have a full array of beverages and edibles and pre-rolls and all the assortment that you would find in a regular store,” said Nicholson.
“We’re going to have our products, and then we’re going to hand-pick and showcase some other products from other (licensed producers) in the community that we really love, and think do a great job,” said Nicholson.
Even though “farm-gate” implies sales directly from a producer to the end consumer, the reality of regulated cannabis retail in Ontario means that the province’s monopoly cannabis wholesaler, the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS), is still involved as the middleman in marijuana farm-gate operations.
A storage area within Thrive’s federally-licensed facility has been designated OCS property, said Rabinovich, and products can be transferred there in the course of transactions with the wholesaler.
Thrive’s new retail operation will still earn some additional revenue from retail sales, Rabinovich added.
“But in terms of finding any sort of efficiencies in costs, we’re very much on an equal playing field, purchasing from the same landing cost that anyone else would, as a retailer purchasing our product from the OCS,” she said.
Still, Thrive believes the benefits of its farm-gate outlet will go beyond retail revenue.
By offering more transparency to consumers, said Nicholson, Thrive can work to destigmatize cannabis, and the concentrates category in particular, while creating new jobs in its home community.
“For us to be able to provide some more jobs, and be able to share with our community and show them what we’re really up to and help destigmatize is huge for us,” he said.
Solomon Israel can be reached at [email protected]