In this first episode of 2021 I interview Jim Southam the owner of Prairie Cannabis in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. We talk about his store and what it takes to open a store in Saskatchewan. We talk about the results and effects of legalization. We also talk about responsible usage and Jim offers some tips and tricks for people who may not have consumed cannabis previously. Jim also answers questions from listeners live.
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Hey everyone, welcome to 2021 Hope everyone is safe and healthy. This episode deals with cannabis so it is 18 and older. And I do ask if you enjoy this episode, please consider rating it on Apple and pod chaser really helps me out and sharing it on social media. Other than that, let's get started. Alright everyone, welcome back to another episode of Coffee Breath Conversations. Today I'm in the studio with Jim Southam. Jim was a lab tech for 23 years before he decided to take a venture in cannabis. And he opened up the store prairie cannabis located in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. And he's here today to talk a bit about the store legalization. And we'll talk a little bit also about usage as well. Welcome to the podcast. Jim. Thank you very much, Russell. It's great to be here. And thank you for the invitation. 23 years as a lab tech, suddenly you're in the cannabis industry. Tell me a bit about your journey. How did it happen? Well, it started I guess, I always say it started back when I went down on a vacation to the US and early 2014. And I decided to take a detour through Denver, Colorado. And I purchased cannabis legally for the first time in my life in March of 2014. And,Jim Southam:
and then that was when all the talk was starting to surface about the liberals and their platform of legalization. And I just started learning more about it and just found myself wanting to get involved because I felt like I could do something good in that respect and help out because I was you know, a little more knowledgeable than the average person. And I started self teaching myself about the only form of education you can get from with cannabis these days. And even to this day, there's not a whole lot of structured cannabis education out there. It's still mostly self taught. He just kind of snowballed. And I mentioned to my sister about getting involved in cannabis retail and needless to say, that was met with some apprehension. And but it wasn't long after that, that I was able to convince her that getting into the cannabis industry was a good idea. And so we decided to go ahead and enter the lottery in Saskatchewan here. And we ended up getting lucky and getting the permit in Prince Albert.Unknown:
So after you got the permit was there a lot of hurdles that you had to cross there was coming from the uranium industry is used to a highly regulated industry and cannabis, I kind of joke sometimes, and it's even more regulated than the uranium industry. But after 100 years of prohibition, I wasn't surprised in the least that, you know, it is, in my opinion, quite over regulated. It's not that dangerous of a plant at all. But from what we were all taught growing up up until legalization, it was expected to have strict regulation and, and so there are a lot of hurdles to overcome. If it was easy, I think everybody would be doing it. I mean, you just have to learn the regulations and the rules and follow them into the letters. And it's not undoable for sure. You know, there's quite a few of us already operating. And it's been a great journey so far. And, you know, I look forward to seeing changes for the better in the industry in the in the future. Do you think there's changes coming to the industry? Absolutely. Even though, you know, we were the most open market in the country with the province staying at a distribution and being allowed to do mail order and home delivery, we still can't consume publicly right now I believe the regulations are you have to consume on private property. So if you don't own your own home, technically your landlord can tell you no consumption on their property and so there's there's no restaurants or cafes or lounges where it's allowed. So I mean, there's lots of work to do. What I look forward to doing is you know, getting involved and making changes for the better and making it a better industry for not just consumers but for you know us as retailers and regulators as well. So why do you think that there's so much stigma attached to cannabis compared to alcohol you I can go and advertise alcohol sales on Facebook, online, on the radio, but cannabis for whatever reason is still something that seems to be very tight lipped almost. Well, again, I think that has to do with the mystery. information that we were taught during Prohibition. You know, there wasn't a lot of factual information about the plants that you could find publicly, up until the very recent past. And, you know, I think it's our job as retailers to help fight that stigma that was taught to everyone. And I just think, you know, in time, and we will get there, but we still have a lot of work to do educating the public, when you went to purchase your permit to open your store, did you face any roadblocks in particular? Well, it wasn't, we didn't just go out and buy a permit. The Saskatchewan government held a lottery, which you submitted your applications to, there was a possible 32 jurisdictions in the province that you can apply for, like in Saskatoon, they they allowed six, seven permits at the beginning, you could only put one application and in Saskatoon so there was 32 towns or cities that you could apply in my sister and I we actually put in 12 applications and 12 different cities or jurisdictions. And we were fortunate enough to get the one in Prince Albert and and now we're expanding that they've opened up the they've taken the cap off the number of licenses, and we're expanding to two more stores in Saskatoon. Oh, that's awesome. Thank you. So you've seen a lot of success, then the store is doing very well. You know, I think everybody knows the black market still winning. But projections from anybody that you talk to and in the industry is Sales are expected to continue to grow for a number of years, what keeps the black market thriving compared to a legitimate enterprise? That's probably a number of factors. But I would say a big factor is pricing. Everybody sourced their product from the black market up until just over two short years ago. That's what they were used to. And, you know, they got to know the people and trust the people that the source their product from today, I would say pricing is number one, which is getting better all the time, we're getting more competitive with pricing on what street prices are for the illicit market, but also quality small batch craft true craft cannabis is it's just not possible to produce it when you're growing inside of a mass 100,000 square foot facility. You just can't give the plants the attention and care that it needs to, you know, maximize yields and quality when you're growing it on a mass scale like some of the larger LPs. Now I know some people were worried that by selling seeds that it would actually reduce the ability to sell in retail. Has that been the case at all? No. I think regulators were concerned that you know, everybody in their grandma was going to be growing cannabis all over the place and growing cannabis. It's it's not like growing tomatoes. Contrary to what some people have said, it's actually quite an art and a skill to be able to grow high quality cannabis. So I mean, yeah, you can throw a few seeds in your garden or in a pot in your house, but the end product that you get from it, it does take a lot of knowledge and a lot of skill to be able to grow, grow good cannabis. But I grew up in Windsor, next to Detroit. So we got Detroit media all the time. I remember one of the ads would say come down to this hydroponic store to grow your own pot of tomatoes. And they added the of tomatoes to the end of it. And it was kind of like a big joke almost. And do you find that there's been a lot of that where it's almost like people still kind of dance around the subject. Not as much anymore now that it's legal, you know, it is still a difficult subject to broach for a lot of people because spending your whole life being told one thing and now all of a sudden everybody's realizing that oh, well, that, you know, wasn't 100% correct. It wasn't even 10% correct most of the information from before legalization. Oh, it's I think once you start talking about it was as any other substance I think people realize that. Oh, it's just a plant and, and it's got a lot of benefits that people can gain from it. Let's talk a bit about the benefits. What are some of the benefits of marijuana? The first thing right off the bat, I guess I want to say is in the recreational market that we are not allowed to discuss any of the medical uses or benefits of the plants with customers. And in my opinion, first and foremost, cannabis is a medicine. Just the fact that it's legal. Now I guess we can consider recreational cannabis as a over the counter medicine, I think the last day I heard that, you know, some cannabis specialists is a term that for people who have been studying cannabis their whole lives and teaching themselves about it, they've said that there's over 200 health benefits from cannabis for different illnesses and ailments, I think number one is probably just the appetites and sleep. It's a does wonders for some people that you know, have a hard time sleeping or don't have much of an appetite. A lot of chronic pain patients, they use it for pain relief and arthritic pain. And there's, there's a whole long list of issues that people use it for, you know, I say probably at least half of our customers that come in the store are asking medical questions about it, but we have to tell them that we can't give medical advice and try and offer them find products that's will, will benefit them and help them and will be what they're looking for without actually talking about the medical aspects of it. Which is not easy. I'm sure it isn't. When you opened up your store, did you see a lot of business at first, or were people a little apprehensive at first. Actually, I guess if I compare it to you know how busy the store is today, it was actually quite busy for the first couple weeks. And I think that was due to the fact that people were curious, you know, they wanted to see what these legal stores were all about. And, and after about the first couple weeks or a month, it was January. So normally sales seem to drop off right after Christmas, just because it's a slower time of the year. Since then, sales have steadily increased. And I know that about just under a year ago, when COVID kind of started being an issue. That's when we noticed a fairly significant jump in sales. And, and I attribute that to some black market sales, because you can go to your buddy's house and during the lockdown and and i also attribute it to new consumers, it's your maybe new again, consumers that hadn't consumed, you know, since they were younger, and wanted to look or try it again, just to see, you know, now that we have a little more information about the plant and what it can do. How is COVID affected your business? Just after COVID hit we had a marked increase in sales and it hasn't went away. So I feel like you know, we've gained some new longtime customers. And I think convenience is a lot a big part of you know, the increase in customers just you don't have to chase people around or meet somebody in a dark alley somewhere. And when people are given that opportunity, it makes a lot of sense to go with what's easiest. And what's the safest or most convenient? Well, I think you also have to consider to when you go to the store, you know what you're getting is been rigorously tested and everything is above board, where if you go to your friend's friend, who knows, as far as the lab testing, obviously, for a lot of people, that's huge when you can have Health Canada accredited labs, testing the products that you're consuming, that gives people a lot more confidence when they purchase those products. And again, back to the stigma of the plant, when we were taught to be scared of it. And I think the legal legal retail stores give people the confidence to come back to it and try it again or, or try it for the first time and speaking and trying it for the first time. So I just have someone here just asked a question. Do you offer support and information for new users? I'd feel lost shopping there. It is a little daunting. If you're a newcomer to cannabis. One thing I really emphasize with all my bud tenders is you need to be able to answer the questions for people because everyone has a lot of questions. Whether you're a new user, new consumer, or a veteran consumer, with new consumers, the saying is start low and go slow. You can always add more, but if you accidentally take too much, you know, you just have to ride it out and then sleep it off or take some CBD to counteract the excess THC in your system. But the biggest thing with seniors and new users is you don't want to get people high. You want to you know start them off at a low dose. Let them get used to it, you know physically as well as mentally You know, they're taking a drug that they were told was the devil's lettuce or it was evil or so I mean, once they get over the initial shock of oh my goodness, I'm using marijuana, then it's willing to try different things or CBD or different different cannabinoids and experiment with it. But again, the biggest thing is go low and go slow and try and give people a good experience with it as best you can. When you're selling cannabis, do you have different THC content, Cannabis, we do. cannabis is a plant. And so even though you might be growing a bunch of the same plants of the same strain, each plant can be slightly different. depending if you gave one a little more fertilizer and the other one a little less water that can really have a big effect on the plant. So we do have the lab tests numbers, right on the labeling on the products. And that can really help guide people as to the strains that they're looking for. And the the potency of those strains. I refer to myself as a lightweight I always have and I always I don't see that changing. But some people are, you know, naturally heavy consumers and and they require the higher concentration of THC in their products that they consume. I like how you call your retailers bud tenders. That's a that's pretty well, I haven't come up with her nobody's come up with a better name for them yet. And technically, that's, you know, if you're a bartender with alcohol, you know, you're a budtender with cannabis. And it's all about just providing the service. And what do you think is key to providing a good customer service? I think it's listening. Everybody uses cannabis differently. Everybody has different tolerances, and everybody's body chemistry is different. So I think you know, a bud tender needs to really listen to the customer and not give them what they think is the best for them. But they need to find out what what the best products are for the customers and, and know how to get that information from the customer. Let's talk a bit about edibles. I know edibles are highly regulated in Canada, I believe it's 10 milligrams per edible maximum it is the that's the maximum allowable concentration per package of any edibles that are on the market. So what's the main difference between smoking and eating an edible? Well, the biggest difference when you ingest it is once THC passes through your liver, it's converted into a different cannabinoid. It's actually called 11 hydroxy THC tetrahydrocannabinol. So the new form that it takes, once it passes through your liver, it's it's a lot more potent than just THC is as safe when you smoke it. And so that's why people get a lot more of a body effect. Or it seems like you get a lot more stoned or for lack of a better term, you know that when you smoke it. So that's why when you're ingesting cannabis, you really need to be careful and start low and glos go slow until you find out what your tolerance is. Now I understand that there's two different strains, there's sativa. And what's the other one, the other one's called indika. There's indika sativa. And then hybrids, which is a mix, most cannabis nowadays is a hybrid of the two strains, I believe there's only 10 or 12, original landraces for cannabis. So now we have 1000s of different names out there. And and really originally, they all come from a very small number of original plants from around the planet. So I mean, you can have pure indica strains or pure sativa strains. But you get a lot that are 5050 mix or 8020 or 6040. So really, again, it's just it depends on you know, what works for you and what works for your your body chemistry. So what would you say is the main difference between like, Why two different strains? What What is the reason why there's two different strains? I don't know what the reason is for. But I guess the the big differences in the the two or you know, sativa strains, everybody says they're more an uplifting euphoric strain of a mind effect. More daytime usage, and indicas have more of a body effects and some more relaxing effect. Some people say you know, indika put you into couch and it's depending on what you're looking for. When you consume I guess that kind of can help guide you. You know, if you want to sit on the couch and watch a movie or something, you might be looking for more of an indika but if you're going to be doing something During the day cleaning your house are a bit more of an active task. You might choose this a diva perhaps. Now where does CBD come into play? CBD is probably the second most well known cannabinoid and the plants. There's zero psychoactive effects from CBD. So it doesn't get you high. It probably has almost as many medical benefits as THC does. And yes, THC does have medical benefits for seniors and new people looking to start trying cannabis out. I do suggest they start with CBD just to you know, get the feeling of taking cannabis and like I said many seniors, you know, take CBD and some of them have eliminated some of their medications for arthritis are sleep medications. It has a lot of benefits without the side effect of getting high. And and a lot of people really like that. There's a term that's kind of become more popular, and I know it's more reserved for psychedelics, but I've heard it start to be used in the cannabis industry as well. It's called micro dosing. What do you know about micro dosing? Well, micro dosing is just what it says it's taking very small amounts of a substance, whether it's cannabis or mushrooms or any other drug out there and just small increments so that you don't become impaired from it. But yet you can see a noticeable you know, benefit from whatever it is that you're microdosing you're wearing the shirt that says weed pool cannabis cooperative. And I know you said you want to talk a bit about that. So the weed pool cannabis cooperative is a cooperative that we formed here in Saskatchewan of independent cannabis retailers. Right now we have 14 members throughout the province, I think we have 17 stores, a couple of us have two stores already, because the province data at a distribution that allowed us the opportunity to form this cooperative. And we are now a licensed wholesale distributor within Saskatchewan. We have I believe the only e commerce platform in the country that retailers can log into and purchase from multiple suppliers all in one place. So we've started just under a year ago, in March, I believe we opened up our website to all the Saskatchewan stores. We've grown very quickly. We have a warehouse in Regina and, and with the latest numbers that I've heard in news articles and stuff that we are about tied with the other largest wholesaler in the province for doing sales. So we're very happy with that so allowed us to do bigger purchases so that we can get better pricing for products. And that was the goal of the weed pool was to do you know larger purchases, so we can help bring down the price of cannabis in our stores. Because we are all retailers, we use a little bit different model than perhaps an independent wholesaler who is purely profit based. We do do a smaller markup on product when we resell it then than the other wholesalers in the province. So I think that's been to our benefits. A lot of retailers even if they're not members, they see the benefits of the better pricing that we get through our purchasing. We're hoping once we all get our stores built outs and there's a number of us expanding our brands, hoping to at least double the number of our members and become the dominant wholesaler of choice in the province here. Do you think it's a western Canada thing to make cooperatives? Obviously, the weed pool is a ripoff of a company that anyone from Saskatchewan recognizes and it's where it came from, you know, the wheat pool was started 100 years ago and it was the largest green buying company for almost 100 years and in the world actually. And it was started by a few small farmers back in the early 1900s. And we really feel a similarity to those guys because we're the underdogs here in this industry competing against publicly traded companies and large LPs as our competition across the street and and so I really feel that by us forming this cooperative, it's really given us a step up to help compete in the industry against these giant companies that that competition is good you know it gives a little guy a bit of a step up against these monopolies and these big corporation it says it does for sure you know it's it took a long time to get out there who the weed pool was you know, everybody was busy and focusing on Ontario, BC, Alberta. And we kind of Saskatchewan ins is a bit of a smaller market compared to those so we didn't always get the attention and but now that we're getting fairly established as a wholesaler here, we're starting to field phone calls from suppliers, almost daily that are interested in selling products to the weed pool. It's good. I'm glad you're finding success. Yep. Thank you. We had talked a little bit earlier before we started. And I think you had mentioned that your brand's actually up for a few awards right now. Yes, in 2019, the Chamber of Commerce puts on the Samuel MacLeod Business Awards. And Perry cannabis was nominated for a new business venture of the year when my employees found out about that then they took it upon themselves to nominate me for business male business leader of the year. So I was extremely thrilled to hear that and that they think that highly of me. And due to COVID. they canceled the award ceremonies last last year. And so now the chamber has rescheduled the awards for last year and they're coming up I believe on February 25. This year they're going to be held they think it's a closed ceremony at the EAA Rawlinson center. So very excited about that. I didn't consider myself very experienced business person when I started this and and to be nominated for a couple of words. It's, it's a really nice feeling. What do you think the future for cannabis is in Canada, we've barely scratched the surface with legalization of how much this plant is going to be a part of our society going forward. There's so many uses for this plant. That's all we really haven't. Never, never mind cannabis. But the hemp side of the industry, it really hasn't been explored that much as much as I think it should be. But I think cannabis is going to really change a lot of the ways that people live their lives and the products that people choose. And I believe that cannabis or hemp could pretty much literally eliminate, you know all plastics on the planet, we can replace good majority of the lumber products that we have, it's a renewable resource. There's people building houses with hempcrete the clothing, so it's going to have an effect on on a lot of major industry industries around the world not to forget the medicine side of it. So there's probably about eight or 10 industries that are probably took off and we're a lot more successful because of prohibition. So I think we're gonna slowly make our way back to pre prohibition times and start using cannabis to the best ability that we can and make things more environmentally friendly, more renewable, others just, I actually saw a post the other day, that's hemp batteries are eight times stronger than lithia. Oh, man don't do. Yeah. Yeah, well, that's the thing. There's a lot Henry Ford built a whole car out of hemp back in the 1920s, three times lighter and eight times as strong or something like that, then steel. So you know, there's a lot of uses. I think we're not just ready to go there tomorrow, because the infrastructure isn't there in our society, but it will come and it'll do nothing but benefits society as a whole. How many jobs would you say that the cannabis industry is brought to people in Canada so far, just an estimate. I know that some of the bigger licensed producers they've been doing a number of layoffs lately, job creation industry wide, though, I would say in the 10s of 1000s. already. I have myself 15 employees at Peri cannabis and I'm with the two new stores in Saskatoon that's probably going to grow to 40 to 50 employees. With more micro growers coming online, more processing and cultivation licenses. I think they said it could be upwards of a couple 100,000 jobs just in Canada alone. So this is a great potential for cannabis to stimulate the economy and you know, it's bringing in new tax dollars. So it's a lot of benefit from it. So I got a question here. Would you recommend starting with edibles or actual cannabis for a first time user, I would say talk to your bud tenders. Either way, whether it's smoking or ingesting cannabis. Again, start low and go slow. Don't start with the highest THC percentage you can find in the store. You know, maybe even look for a balanced flower which is CBD and THC mixed together. A lot of people really find smoking balanced cannabis is very enjoyable for them and it doesn't give them that time to paired feeling and definitely talk to your bud tender and they should be able to give you some good information on on how to get started. How do we beat the stereotype of the lazy stoner? Well, I think it's a matter of just proving it to oneself I work I have, like I said, I have 15 employees, and everyone is a consumer. You know, I have tremendously amazing staff. I think the lazy stoner stigma probably comes out of the fact that you know, the high school kids are all they did was lay around the house all day and didn't want to do anything. But I don't think that was the cannabis. That's just the typical teenager for the most part. And we had a limited knowledge of the plants. And actually, some people when they consume cannabis, it actually helps them it become more productive, it actually helps people focus a lot more on on the task at hand. I mean, again, it's just shedding the stigmas like that is just gonna come with time and inexperience. Is there anything else that that you'd like to talk about today that you don't feel we mentioned yet? There's a million things going on in the industry. I guess the one thing I'd like to tell everyone is, nobody's going to come and hand you a booklet that tells you everything you need to know about cannabis, the onus is still on us to teach ourselves. And in my experience, the more I've learned about cannabis, the better off I am. And the better I can help people use the plant more effectively and more beneficially, even just learning about the history of prohibition and all the different things that happened over the 100 years that it was prohibited to consume, and, and possess. There's so much cannabis information out there that the more people we have talking about it learning about it, the quicker we'll be able to get over the stigma and just start accepting it as as a normal substance in our in our societies and the way it should be. You know, that's what I think about it. So I got another question here. I'm assuming body type effects your reaction to THC levels? I'm a bigger person. So low to mid dose question. Fortunately, that's another misconception of cannabis. You know, whereas with alcohol generally it's a your blood alcohol level correlates with body mass and size. cannabis is 100%. Not like that. I've seen the smallest tiniest girls be able to consume way more than some giant six foot six big burly guy. So it really it has nothing to do with your body size. It's more about your body chemistry. Like I said, I've always been a lightweight as a consumer and yet other people, they can just seem to be able to take endless amounts of cannabinoids and not be affected by it very much. It's all an individual tolerance levels. And it's up to the individual to find out what those levels are and just start low and go slow. So open consumption. you'd mentioned earlier on that that's still prohibited. Do you foresee that changing in the future? I do. We're being a little hypocritical by legalizing a substance and then not allowing its consumption anywhere in public. I know in BC and Ontario there limited regulations is about public consumption and where you can and can't. Here in Saskatchewan right now. There's no public consumption allowed whatsoever. So basically, unless you own your own home, or property, technically, there's nowhere to legally consume cannabis for you. Unless you're at your friend's place who owns their own know that that needs to change. I mean, should be no different than our smoking bylaws. I know there's still patients fighting the smoking bylaws as well. Restaurants are lounges I think people should have a place to go and public where they can socialize and consume at the same time. No different than a bar lounge. You know there's there's a lot of work to do with the regulations and definitely public consumption is one of those and to take that a little bit further special event permits for concerts and, and outdoor events that take place that's going to be one of my first ones and I'm pushing lg slga to start allowing is once we can get outdoors in crowds again and have concerts and festivals and stuff. That's gonna be a big one. Well, it all kind of seems a little hypocritical from the government. I've been to many rock and roll concerts and even ones that aren't that rock and roll and You can smell marijuana smoke the entire time. And usually security is pretty lacks on that. Why the morality policing for cannabis that you don't see for alcohol. Again, it comes down to the stigma that surrounded cannabis for many, many years. Most of us all know that cannabis is has been there all the time. It's just been in the back corner the down the alley or wherever, but no, you're right, it is hypocritical and to still restrict its consumption even though it's illegal, you know, isn't isn't a correct policy, and we need to work to change that. And I acknowledge that it is legal now and make changes for the better, you know, discuss it like adults and, and Matt, you know, leave it up to the individual to manage their own body and what they choose to put into their body as well. Yeah, for sure. Now, that directly correlates to the stigma attached to it. And you know, we all grew up learning the same things and kind of speaking out of the sides of our mouths whenever you talked about cannabis and even when I was in Colorado and I went into the gas station to ask the young woman gas attendant, I was like, Where can I find a cannabis dispensary? So yeah, it's just gonna take time to overcome the stigma and have our society accept as normal listeners here said, thanks for the information. Great to learn more. Can't wait to meet a bud tender. Yeah. Well, come on down to Peri cannabis. There'll be somebody there that will be happy to answer your questions. If people want to reach out work, where can they find you and your business? If they want to email any questions or need information to info at Prairie canada.ca? Or you can check out our website at Prairie canada.ca. And can you order online? We can yet we do mail order as well as home delivery and Prince Albert. And we do mail order throughout the whole province. And that's different from other provinces. Right? It is? That's correct. Yeah, we can we're only allowed to sell within the province of Saskatchewan. So we can only we can't do mail order for Quebec or Ontario or any outside of the province whatsoever. Now, do you verify ID we do you have to once you create an account online, you have to send us a picture of valid photo ID government issued ID. And once we receive that, then we create your account and you can log into purchase. every province is different in how they regulate. If I had cannabis, would I be able to bring it to another province? Or is that again? Yeah, you're allowed to carry 30 grams or the equivalent to 30 grams of dried cannabis on your person at any time. As long as you're flying within Canada or traveling you can fly with it as well. or traveling interprovincial Lee you are allowed legally allowed to take your cannabis with you. Well, Jim, I really want to thank you for coming on to the podcast today. It's been a great conversation, a very educational conversation. Absolutely. Thank you very much Russell for having me. It was a pleasure. Well, and in the future. Hopefully we'll have you back on the podcast would be great.