September 26, 2022

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Retail pot goes mainstream, hits the shopping mall

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When Tecumseh last month became the last Essex County town to approve retail pot shops setting up within its municipality — almost three years after Canada legalized weed — it was a sure sign that cannabis had hit the public mainstream.

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Another big step towards marijuana normalization comes on Saturday when one of Southwest Ontario’s biggest shopping centres welcomes to its tony corridors a business whose focus is getting customers high on a mind-altering substance.

“This is a very exciting time for Devonshire Mall and we are thrilled with the addition of Tokyo Smoke to our strong array of retail offerings,” Chris Savard, general manager of the Windsor mall, said in a news release.

A Tokyo Smoke spokeswoman said her company is equally excited to set up shop inside one of the first Canadian shopping malls to host such a retail outlet, “bringing the Tokyo Smoke experience to this community.” It’s the 23rd private retail outlet approved by the province to sell recreational pot to adults from a Windsor business location.

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Tokyo Smoke staff are shown Friday preparing for the July 10 opening of its Devonshire Mall cannabis retail outlet.
Tokyo Smoke staff are shown Friday preparing for the July 10 opening of its Devonshire Mall cannabis retail outlet. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

Tokyo Smoke, a growing chain with dozens of retail outlets across Canada, boasts of its high-end offerings, esthetics and premium shopping experience. Its parent company is multibillion-dollar Canopy Growth, Canada’s largest licensed pot producer based in Smiths Falls, Ont.

“We’re thrilled to be able to play a role in how Canadians continue to learn about cannabis and to provide access to our carefully curated accessories and products, along with our best-in-class guest experience,” said Melissa Gallagher, Canopy Growth’s director of corporate and franchise stores.

With an initial 11 “team members” operating out of the Windsor location, customers will be able to visit or shop and order online for curbside pickup. The store’s hours will match those of the mall. Like all retail cannabis businesses, it’s restricted to adult customers only.

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In addition to 23 retail pot shops now authorized to operate in Windsor, there are 18 other Windsor applications currently under review by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario. Legalization day for recreational pot for adults was Oct. 17, 2018, but Windsor didn’t get its first retail store — J. Supply Co. — until March 2020.

Across Essex County, there are currently six businesses in four municipalities approved to sell recreational cannabis to adults. It was only last month that Tecumseh ended its “wait and see” approach and gave the green light to such retail, and there are already two applications before the AGCO to set up shop there. LaSalle, whose council only opted in in March, has three private sector applications currently before the AGCO.

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Some of the cannabis accessory offerings available at Tokyo Smoke’s retail store at the Devonshire Mall are shown Friday.
Some of the cannabis accessory offerings available at Tokyo Smoke’s retail store at the Devonshire Mall are shown Friday. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

Opening last October, Tony’s Joint in Essex became the first pot retail outlet in the county.

Cannabis consumption — which, until three years ago, had been a criminal offence in Canada for generations — was not everyone’s cup of tea when it was first legalized. LaSalle, for example, voted down an initial proposal to opt in on retail, with its mayor warning the town just two years ago to “be cautious.” Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, who pointed to problems in other jurisdictions, was similarly opposed to Windsor’s move to permit retail pot shops to set up in his city.

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Shannon Bird, Ontario project manager with Tokyo Smoke, sets up displays at the cannabis store opening Saturday at the Devonshire Mall in Windsor.
Shannon Bird, Ontario project manager with Tokyo Smoke, sets up displays at the cannabis store opening Saturday at the Devonshire Mall in Windsor. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star
Devonshire Mall shoppers walk by the Tokyo Smoke cannabis store on Friday as they exit the Windsor mall.
Devonshire Mall shoppers walk by the Tokyo Smoke cannabis store on Friday as they exit the Windsor mall. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

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