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Saskatoon cannabis shops reflect on changes to the industry 3 years after legalization

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SASKATOON -

Cierra Sieben-Chuback, who owns Living Skies Cannabis in Saskatoon, has seen change first-hand since marijuana was legalized three years ago.

“It changed from what I originally thought our customer demographic would be. You see every kind of person coming into these cannabis stores,” she told CTV News.

Cannabis became legal in Canada on Oct. 17, 2018. Living Skies Cannabis opened its first location a few weeks after that.

Sieben-Chuback said at first they were only allowed to sell flower, pre-rolls and oils, but could expand to things like edibles, beverages and even bath bombs a year later.

For Sieben-Chuback, part of her job is education and helping end the stigma around cannabis.

“Not every cannabis product is going to get you stoned out of your mind. There’s a lot of cannabis products that are very light and just CBD, so there are a lot more options out there for people to try.”

With more cannabis stores opening around the city, Living Skies Cannabis has since expanded to four locations.

“It’s difficult with a lot more cannabis stores in the city, but we’re very happy that people of Saskatoon continue to support a locally-owned business here,” she said.

“It’s hard competing with big corporations for sure, but we’re going to keep trying our best.”

Prairie Records, which has six locations including two in Saskatoon and one in Warman, has also seen a lot of change.

Dustin Norris, the shop’s senior manager of retail, said a lot of that change has happened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with changing restrictions and requirements such as proof of vaccination.

“We’ve been forced to shift our business operations so many times just to be able to continue to serve those customers and those people that are really eager to know a little bit about our products and the services that we have.”

Robert Laprairie, an assistant professor in the University of Saskatchewan College of Pharmacy and Nutrition and the GlaxoSmithKline-CIHR chair in drug recovery and development, said a lot of research about cannabis has started over the last three years since legalization.

“We have a lot of questions that need to be answered and a lot of really important questions that we can now answer.”

Laprairie said one of those questions is the effectiveness of cannabis-based medicines.

“We’re finding a lot of promise, specifically in epilepsy and Huntington’s disease and pain, which I think is really exciting. I find generally, the population are very willing to consider cannabis-based medicines which is wonderful.”

Laprairie adds that it is important for people to be aware of misconceptions about cannabis such as that it’s safe because it’s natural.

“There are always safety considerations that you should talk to your doctor or your pharmacist about, there are interactions that cannabis can have with other drugs you’re taking.”

Laprairie said two other common misconceptions are that all cannabis gets you high and that cannabis can help treat nausea in pregnant women.

He said his hope is for research into cannabis use continues and becomes more accessible.

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