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Somewhat naively, we planned to open a small cannabis “quick stop” shop. We thought we wouldn’t even require much in renovation, and it would be a good way to make use of our property. Our initial idea was order ahead/window service, although a quick look at the AGCO site showed that our vision was already under fire by regulation. And it’s grown from there.

We planned to keep it simple, minimal renovations, but the least we can do and be compliant expands every time we pull a thread.

We want to move the washroom, so now it must be bigger to accommodate wheelchairs, it needs an expensive door opener and emergency light system, a special toilet, a specific-height sink, a specific configuration to allow a specific turn radius, special signage. Nothing we had from the original washroom could be reused. Thousands of dollars.

No visibility from the outside means we have to frost or remove any windows, and build a vestibule, which means an extra security door, all wheelchair accessible. Thousands of dollars.

The outside grading, though fairly flat, is not level enough for accessibility. Thousands of dollars.

We need a special receiving room separate from the secure storage room, with an extra security door. Thousands of dollars.

Security cameras must be high definition, 30 days of storage (most hold 48 hours without expensive drives), and cover every single inch without a single blind spot. Thousands of dollars.

And it goes on. Building code requirements and accessibility requirements are all set to such high standards that only large operations with strong financial backing can undertake to occupy any space commercially. Additional cannabis regulations and security risks create costly layout renovations. The nature of the business itself dictates extra security costs. Just applying for the licenses was $10,000, non-refundable by the way.

Months before we are allowed to make a dime, before we can even consider how we will ever pay for it all, everyone has a hand in our pockets. Not just tens of thousands, hundreds. And if we don’t do all of this BEFORE we get a license to operate, we will be delayed months in opening, because the license for the store is only approved once everything is perfect, so we must work in parallel or risk months of delay. There is no timeline for approvals, no communication about when we might expect to hear word, no idea whatsoever of when we might be allowed to open, but we are incurring costs on the hope and assumption because there is no choice.

This is not a business for the faint of heart.

Once you start pulling a single thread, every expense reveals itself to be a bigger ball of yarn, a new regulatory body or type of provider to deal with, more consultations, more permissions, more restrictions, more requirements, coming from every corner. Not one of these “public servants” cares at all about your costs, time, or goals. There is simply no way to enter this business for less than $250,000. If there was, we would have found it.

This is not a small business, it can’t be done on a small scale. Regulations at every level ensure that there is no low-cost way to open a cannabis retail store. The minimum entry point requires large-scale commitment. Go big or go under.