First Nations chief proud to see community-owned cannabis store open
March 10, 2021 By John McFadden, Orillia Today (Local Journalism Initiative)
The chief of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation near Orillia said he could not be more proud to see the territory open a brand-new luxury cannabis retail store owned, operated, and staffed entirely by Rama First Nation community members.
Chief Ted Williams added that the launch of Rama Cannabis is the culmination of years of hard work.
“There was a competitive process that the provincial government put out about two years ago. We were given the nod just over a year ago and we began to make plans for the development of our retail cannabis operation. We are quite pleased with it. We had a soft opening on the weekend and we were open on for full business on Monday,” the chief said. “I’m very proud of the fact that the whole operation is 100 per cent being run by people from the First Nation – from cleaners right through to upper management.”
Chief Williams said he is very impressed by the level of training everyone involved at the store has received. He has been in the business a couple of times now and he is very happy about how things are going. Everyone involved in the operation has high expectations for its success, particularly once the COVID-19 global pandemic is finally over, he added.
Williams said the store has had a steady stream of customers since it opened. He added the customers will find Rama Cannabis is not like any other cannabis store around.
“Our store is very different. It has that premium feel to it once you walk in the door. It’s not your run-of-the-mill, mom-and-pop operation,” the chief said.
Williams said that entering into the emerging cannabis retail market is another milestone for the community.
“Rama First Nation has historically demonstrated a willingness to travel new paths in entrepreneurship. We are happy to have 18 community members employed and training in a new industry,” he said.
Tracy Beaver, Rama Cannabis general manager, is also excited to see the unique store finally open.
“Our budmasters and budtenders are trained to provide whatever level of service the customer is looking for,” said Beaver. She added that plans are in place for several budmasters to earn accreditation as Cannabis Sommeliers by the end of the year.
The store is located on Rama Road in a new building that the First Nation said was designed exclusively for the retailer by Orillia architect Roderick H. Young.
A news release from the territory states that “with its harmonious interior, sensory stations, and offering of premium-regulated products, including edibles, vape liquids, oils, and topicals, the store is designed to meet the needs of both the cannabis connoisseur and the first-time user.”
Due to the pandemic, Tracy stated that Rama Cannabis will restrict access to a few customers at a time with COVID-19 protocols in place.
“We’re very mindful about the health and safety of our community, particularly because we are a First Nation,” said Tracy. “We’re taking every precaution possible to keep our community safe and protect our employees.”
According to the news release, Rama Cannabis is the latest addition to the First Nation’s businesses, which includes the Rama Country Market, the Gathering Place group of stores at Casino Rama, Ojibway Bay Marina, Rama Community Farm, Black River Wilderness Park, and two Tim Hortons locations.
“Our biggest source of pride is the number of community members who are excited to be part of Rama Cannabis,” said Tracy. “We had over a hundred applications to work in the store, and every single one of them was from a Rama First Nation community member.”
John McFadden is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering Indigenous issues for MuskokaRegion.com, ParrySound.com and Simcoe.com. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.
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