As the co-owner of West Vancouver's first legal cannabis shop, Happy Isle Cannabis, Glenn Cormier has been an active advocate for legalization, supporting consumers' right to access safe, regulated cannabis.
While cannabis has been legal for both medicinal and recreational use for almost four years, Cormier has found that many of his clientele purchase products more for the former reason than the latter, citing the proposed benefits surrounding sleep and pain relief as primary motivators.
This is where Cannabidiol, or CBD, enters the picture at an ever-growing rate in the marketplace.
“THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is the most commonly known of the cannabinoids, it’s the one that everyone knows as the compound that gets you high,” Cormier says. “But CBD is getting lots of press these days because, anecdotally, people are learning that CBD is helpful for sleep, anxiety or pain in relation to inflammation.”
It’s at this point that Cormier points out an important, universal truth: cannabis store owners are not like pharmacists who can readily prescribe products, or provide peer-reviewed medical information.
Instead, Cormier and co-owner David Bellringer rely on the anecdotal info their customers report to them. The pair, along with Rob Forbes, the Operations Manager and certified Cannabis Sommelier, build a network of informed knowledge to help point their customers in the right direction, allowing them to tailor the cannabis experience in a way that is specifically geared to their needs.
In the case of CBD, that direction involves some trial and error. Because dosages invariably differ between capsules and oils, each individual CBD user has to be mindful of their tolerance levels.
“I stress to our customers that CBD is not a magical pill,” Cormier says. “A lot of people who have problems with sleep take a sleeping pill, and it puts them to sleep at night. But if you’re looking to CBD to help you with your sleep, you have to look at this issue from a longer term. It’s not something that’s going to work magically overnight; you have to build it up in your system, maintain it in your system and make it part of regimen for yourself.”
While CBD sales represent a growing portion of the market at both Happy Isle locations – there’s also one on Bowen Island – there are a myriad of other products offered as well: flower, which includes loose cannabis as well as pre-rolls; all the edibles and beverages; oils, tinctures, capsules and concentrates.
But whatever product customers may seek out, they must heed the five golden words: start low and go slow.
“With cannabis, as with anything, the worst thing you can do with your first experience is to overdo it,” Cormier cautions. “I’ve heard people say, ‘I tried cannabis once, it was terrible, I’ll never do it again.’ And while I don’t like comparing cannabis to alcohol, that scenario is like saying, ‘The first time I drank alcohol, I drank a whole bottle of tequila, and I’m never drinking again.’ There’s a reason that the legal market, especially with edibles and beverages, has low-dose amounts: you can come in and ask for a low dose, we’ll give you a five-milligram gummy and you can take it from there.”
Cormier’s clientele spans the legal of 19 all the way up to those in their 90s. Most in the 50-plus demographic are revisiting cannabis after decades since their last time trying it or coming to the herb for the first time all together. Happy Isle Cannabis even provides a 10% discount to seniors from Monday to Friday.
“The fastest growing demographic in the legal market is seniors,” Cormier adds. “They ask a lot of questions with regards to specific ailments, and I think that a lot of that comes from a trust factor.
“We also offer private cannabis consultations to anyone who requires extra one-on-one time or prefers a private shopping experience. Consultations are available between 10:00 - 10:30 a.m. any day of the week. Bookings have to be made in advance via e-mail,” Cormier says.
Trust is the operative word in the Happy Isle ethos: the same trust that goes into passing on advice to consumers is found in the Happy Isle approach to being the inaugural legal cannabis store to open in West Vancouver after the district first allowed the business type in 2021.
“We operate our business in a respectful way,” Cormier says. “We don’t bang the pots and pans for a grand opening, we don’t wave the flag or anything like that. Our consumers, our customers know where to find us. We have to be sensitive to those around us in the community.”