A nautical-themed weed store? Get ready for N.B.'s new cannabis era


You wouldn't see a mermaid statue hanging from the wall when you walk into one of Cannabis NB's regular stores.

At McCannabis in Salisbury, though, one of the new — and legal — independent cannabis stores opening in rural areas across New Brunswick, a mermaid is entirely possible. So is a whale, an ancient radio and a ship's helm nailed to the wall. In fact, most of the small store's decorations are antiques, suggesting an air of something old instead of something new.

Of course, to many people, purchasing cannabis isn't something new at all. After the legalization of weed and the opening of Cannabis NB's first stores in 2018, however, a common enough transaction for some was treated like a novelty. New Brunswick's stores were mostly colourless and, before edibles arrived on the scene, looked barren and clinical, almost like visiting a doctor's office instead of a prelude to a good time.

"If you've been in our stores recently, you've probably noticed things don't look that way anymore," said Cannabis NB president and CEO Lori Stickles.

The year is now 2023, and Cannabis NB is ready for a new era.

Besides loosening its grip on who can sell marijuana — five of nine private stores have opened this summer, a sixth is about to open and the Crown corporation is planning another round of requests for proposals to open even more stores next year — store shelves now burst with colour. While there are no mermaids, displays are filled with edibles, vape cartridges and glittering bongs, and signs boast same-day delivery. 

Showing less restraint is one way the corporation hopes to compete with the illicit market, which Stickles estimates lays claim to 50 per cent of New Brunswick's cannabis customers. In its strategic plan for 2024-2026, the phrases "explore non-traditional revenue opportunities" and "on-site consumption opportunities" make an appearance. 

"On-site consumption, it can mean many things, so it can look like a cannabis café, or it can be as simple as being able to sample products in stores, similar to what you can do on the alcohol side," Stickles said, adding it won't happen overnight.