SASKATOON -- While consumers celebrate the legalization of recreational cannabis on April 20 – a day known as 420 – one retailer is using the day to encourage people to not be ashamed of using or buying marijuana.

The regional manager of Prairie Cannabis, jef Roy, said his hope for the future as a cannabis retailer is that the practice is less stigmatized, both for medical and recreational purposes. Prairie Cannabis has three locations, one in Prince Albert and two in Saskatoon.

“We still work against stigma every day. We have limits imposed on what you can buy here, but other industries do not have those same limits,” he said.

Roy pointed to the province prohibiting cannabis use in public places, citing potentially harmful effects from second-hand smoke. Roy said that leaves many people who don’t own property, such as those living in apartments, without a place to go to light up.

“During the holidays, nobody will think twice about buying a mickey or a two-six to throw into a holiday gift exchange at work. I’d like to see that happen with cannabis as well. I’d like to see people not shy away from buying a couple packs of joints to give out at the office party,” he said.

“A lot of people see cannabis legalization as basically a freedom that we always should have had.”

Still, Roy said legalizing recreational cannabis, which came into effect in October 2018, is a step in the right direction.

“It’s been around for a long, long time, 420,” added the Prairie Cannabis Prince Albert manager, Marilyn Ferguson.

“It used to be called protest day, now it’s celebration day in Canada.”

Roy and Ferguson said they’ve been seeing an upswing in sales since the start of pandemic.

Jim Southam, the CEO of Prairie Cannabis and the President of the Saskatchewan Weed Pool, said that increase is being seen across the country. He said going from “prohibition to essential services” has put into perspective how many people use cannabis.

“The legal stores have given people a safe and reliable environment to source their cannabis and provide convenient access to cannabis, unlike during prohibition,” he said.

The Saskatchewan Weed Pool is a co-operative of independently-owned cannabis retailers and was created to compete against large companies.

Alene Mckay said 420 is a day to stock up on cannabis while it’s on sale, as many retailers have on 420. McKay said the pandemic has caused a slight increase in consumption on some days, but overall hasn’t made that much of a difference.

Some days, she said, that extra use is needed.

“COVID is getting strong and people are getting more sick, and I feel depressed about that,” said Mckay, added that she’s been smoking for several years.

“The first time I got my ID, I came here since I was like 19, started going to the cannabis (stores),” she said, after making a purchase at Prairie Cannabis.

The province says although recreational cannabis is now legalized, “legal doesn’t mean safe.” It warns against driving while impaired, along with long-term health effects if it’s smoked, such as wheezing and shortness of breath.