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Sahtu’s first private cannabis retailer opening soon


A cannabis store is set to open in Norman Wells within the next month, making it the first private cannabis retailer in the Northwest Territories’ Sahtu region.

When Cabin Radio visited the soon-to-be store on Friday, owner Joshua Earls and his team were in the final stages of prepping the space for opening.

“We’re just doing the last security things – putting shutters on our windows, the alarm system, getting our security cameras in place, finishing off a little bit of lights,” Earls said.

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He said he hopes to open the store, called Sahtú sPOT, within the next few weeks.

Until now, cannabis in Norman Wells has been sold at the town’s government-backed liquor store, as is the case in most NWT communities where liquor stores exist.

Starting in 2019, the territorial government began a process of vetting potential private dispensaries.

Earls said the territory wanted to separate the sale of alcohol and cannabis due to concerns that selling the two together might promote abuse, as the CBC previously reported.

In 2021, Earls submitted a bid to sell cannabis through Rampart Rentals, the grocery store he owns, which is located in the building next door to the future cannabis shop.

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If anyone in town were to run a cannabis store, Earls said he and his colleagues would be the ones to do it. Already, Earls runs several ventures, including a trucking company, a green energy business and Norman Wells’ only independent grocery store.

“We kind-of understand what it takes to operate a retail store,” he said.

Earls also had space available to house the store. When the territory put out a request for proposals, he said he had just acquired the building next to the grocery store. The back was being used as a warehouse, but the front was underutilized.

“I thought that this was a perfect opportunity to utilize this space,” he said, adding that the prospect of running a cannabis store seemed interesting and unique.

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“Why not?” he said, reflecting on his decision.

Earls plans to pair the cannabis store with a gift shop, he said, as the town no longer has one.

He said he already has all the gift items he plans to sell and will start by selling the cannabis supply that is currently in stock at the liquor store, so it isn’t wasted.

Earls said he isn’t entirely sure what to expect with the upcoming opening, but that people seem excited.

A new sign is up on the front of the building, he said, and people keep stopping by, thinking the shop is already open.

If Sahtú sPOT were the first place in town to sell cannabis, Earls said there might be some backlash. But because the liquor store has been selling cannabis for years, he said people seem to see the new store as an opportunity for better service.