Sisters, Lori Rittaler and Lisa Taylor, are the owners and operators of Riverside Cannabis. The store is the first licensed pot outlet on the West Shore. (contributed)

Riverside Cannabis in Sooke the first licensed pot shop on the West Shore

Licensing process was long and arduous, say owners

When Riverside Cannabis opens its doors on Thursday, it will be the first legal cannabis retail store in Sooke and on the West Shore.

And according to Lisa Taylor, the co-owner and operator of the distinctive “castle building” location, the process of getting the license was no easy task.

“It’s been a hell of a journey, that’s for sure,” said Taylor.

“We first applied on Oct. 17 and since that time we have been working non-stop to get our license so that we can operate legally.”

Taylor said she’s certain that none of the other cannabis outlets in Sooke are similarly licensed and she speculated that those outlets may be risking action to shut them down if they don’t get their own licenses.

“There are stores in Vancouver and Victoria that have already been contacted by the B.C.’s Community Safety Unit and will likely be shut down if they don’t get licensed,” said Taylor.

The process of getting that license involves an in-depth review of the applicants’ background and the history of their businesses.

“They asked me questions about things that happened 30 years ago,” Taylor recalled with a chuckle.

“One of the investigators actually told me that they knew more about me than I did.”

Riverside Cannabis first opened its doors in 2017 and operated as one of three “grey market” operations; not legal, yet not prosecuted in light of the impending legalization of cannabis in Canada.

After legalization occurred in October 2018, much of the regulatory responsibility for the operation of cannabis outlets was off-loaded to provincial and, to a lesser extent, municipal governments.

RELATED: Municipalities struggle with cannabis questions

“I first started the store with my sister (Lori Rittaler) after she had an experience with Lyme disease. It was very serious and she started eating these 25-milligram (cannabis) candies and that helped her get through it,” Taylor said.

“We’re 100 per cent recreational now, but I know that there are people out there who could benefit from cannabis.”

Riverside Cannabis has been shut down since July 2 when they shuttered their doors to allow for the full renovation of their retail outlet.

“We’re looking pretty tricked out now. I’m really pleased with how it all came out.”

But Taylor added that there will be more improvements in the future.

“We’re told that edibles and concentrates will be available by Christmas and that there’s a move to get some of our local craft growers made a part of the supply chain. Those growers have some of the best product out there and if they are picked up by the Liquor and Cannabis Distribution Branch, that would be great,” said Taylor.

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