Canadian cannabis retail has really exploded over the past year. The sheer amount of new cannabis retailers that have opened their doors over the last 12 months has been the subject of numerous headlines. Many are questioning the sustainability of these operations and how many cannabis stores one town or city truly needs.
There is a perception among a section of the public that every Canadian cannabis retail store is the same and sells the same products. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Many brands across the country are beginning to differentiate from the pack and develop meaningful connections with consumers. In this article, we will explore which Canadian cannabis stores are leading the way in 2021.
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The Best Cannabis Chains in Canada (Nation-wide).
Canna Cabana operates around 50 locations in total across Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan. The company brands their storefronts as “Canada’s one stop shop for dried flower, oils, edibles, accessories, and more”. The store offers a loyalty program called “Cabana Club” that rewards members 5% off for signing up. Most of the brand’s marketing is around discounts and having the lowest prices compared to other stores.
Choom is a concept brand inspired by “The Choom Gang”, a group of friends from a small Hawaiian island. The company describes themself as an elevated cannabis retailer, with a network of corporate-owned stores, selling a curated assortment of cannabis and related products. The brand currently operates around 17 dispensaries between Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta. Choom is publicly traded on the Canadian Securities Exchange.
Previously (and controversially) named Hobo Cannabis, Dutch Love is a cannabis retailer with locations in Ontario, BC, Saskatchewan and Alberta. This chain is wholly owned by The Donnelly Group, a parent company that owns numerous public houses, cocktail taverns and nightclubs in Vancouver. Dutch Love’s stores are clean and open with wood panelling and lots of plants. These stores don’t display many or any cannabis products, instead, most of their shelves are filled with accessories and actual products are kept behind the budtender’s desk. Dutch Love brands itself as your “Neighbourhood Flower Shoppe”. Their social media content and design is inspired by 80’s psychedelic retro vibes. Dutch Love collaborates with brands like Ace Valley to offer co-branded tote bags in-store.
Fire & Flower
Fire & Flower is one of Canada’s largest cannabis retail chains by sheer number of locations and brands itself as “not your typical cannabis dispensary”. The company’s corporate head office is located in Alberta but F&F has a footprint in essentially every province that allows private retail. Fire & Flower also recently acquired and now operates several legacy cannabis store brands including The Friendly Stranger, Hotbox and Happy Dayz. The brand’s social media content is playful, memey, inclusive and progressive. Their storefronts are designed with white wood paneling, featuring chandeliers and orange accents.
Celebrating the launch of their 100th location nationwide this past month, Spiritleaf is Canada’s largest single-brand network of cannabis retail stores. This store was recently acquired by Sundial Growers, an Alberta-based Licensed Producer, and holding company. Like many of the other stores we have profiled and will profile, Spiritleaf’s stores are designed with wood graining, wood paneling, and plenty of greenery. Many of their stores have an authentic, homey feel that is reminiscent of Canadian cottage country. Spiritleaf calls itself “The People’s Cannabis Shop” and promises customers that walking into one of their locations is “the start of something incredible”.
Best Cannabis Stores in Ontario
Calyx & Trichomes
Calyx & Trichomes is reportedly the busiest cannabis store in Eastern Ontario, and for good reason. This beautiful storefront does not hide the fact that they sell cannabis – in fact, large-high-quality images of the plant are plastered on every wall. The brand is focused on education, staff training and development, and social responsibility. C&T has the feeling of an old-school head shop or grey market dispensary. The brand has developed an enviable social media following with a large number of passionate supporters. The store caters largely to bulk and value consumers and aims to make the cannabis buying process simple and familiar. Calyx & Trichomes recently expanded, opening their second location in Kingston, Ontario.
Edition is a clean, sleek, modern cannabis retailer with one location in downtown Toronto. The store’s slogan is “high design, high quality”. Notably, Edition displays next to no actual cannabis products. Only smoking accessories and cannabis-related items will be found on Edition’s shelves. Edition feels more like a high-end jewelry store than a cannabis store. The brand’s social media content is very lifestyle-focused – showing a variety of models using branded accessories. The brand recently launched their own line of apparel and accessories called “edition correspondence club”.
The Hunny Pot
The Hunny Pot was the very first legal cannabis retail store to open up in downtown Toronto and now operates a total of 10 locations across the GTA. The Hunny Pot is “socially responsible, innovative, educational, and customer-centric”. The brand makes an effort to contribute back to the communities that they operate in. The Hunny Pot has one of the largest social media followings for cannabis retailers in Canada – boasting 10.2k followers on Instagram. Their Instagram features many giveaways and creatively-arranged product-focused content. The store strives to serve both cannabis “new-bees” and experts alike.
Superette is an award-winning cannabis retailer with several locations in Toronto and Ottawa, Ontario. Each of Superette’s stores are unique but are all inspired by high-end boutique grocers. Their stores feature creative and playful concepts like surrounding their bud scent jars with real flower bouquets, inviting customers to lean in and “smell the flowers”. Superette’s newest location near Trinity Bellwoods in downtown Toronto is a concept store named “Sip n Smoke”. This store only carries pre-rolled joints and beverages (no flower, concentrates, etc) which caters to park visitors looking for a quick and easy way to consume. Superette is one to watch as they strategically grow their footprint across Canada and continue innovating in their store design and marketing communications.
With two operating stores and more on the way, Welcome Cannabis is a new and exciting independent retailer. Opening their first two stores in June 2020, the brand is making waves within their local communities. Offering a customer an experience that has them leaving feeling like they just left a friend’s house, the brand’s primary design focuses on showcasing local artists and creating a conversation. As smaller independent stores Welcome Cannabis strives to offer the same support back to the community through a multitude of outreach programs such as the Cloud Club, Feed ’n Weed, Beach Sponsorships, and support of local companies within their displays, accessories, and product selection, and 2% back to the arts and environment.
Best Cannabis Stores in the Prairies
Delta 9 Cannabis Store is a publicly traded chain of recreational Cannabis stores based in Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. Delta 9 is one of the first and only cannabis retailers in Canada to create their own customized online menu (using Shopify instead of using Dutchie or Buddi), which allows them to rank higher for product-related search terms on Google and other networks. For this reason, they have very good SEO and likely bring in many customers from search terms. Their brand is very simple and is primarily focused on the products they carry. Their stores are unique with clean, white, sharp edges and large TV screens that give you the impression of walking through the clouds. Delta 9 offers a wide range of cannabis-containing products along with many accessories and smoking devices.
Four20 Premium Market
Four20 Premium Market promises to be “your community cannabis retailer”, with 12 locations in Calgary, 3 in Edmonton, and another 8 in the surrounding areas in Alberta. The brand offers an insider perks program that allows consumers to redeem discounts and special offers. Every week they publish their new “dope deals”, letting customers know which products are newly discounted. Four20 and their employees give back to various charities across the province, helping many food banks during the holidays in 2020. The company is very transparent and features long bios and blogs about their founders and employees on their website. Four20 is one of the biggest and most well-known chains in the province of Alberta.
Garden Variety operates three licensed cannabis retail stores in Brandon and Winnipeg, Manitoba. The brand has one of the best menus in the province and promises that their “grass is always greener”. Their stores are approachable, clean, and feature a significant amount of open space. Their stores feature an Instagrammable bright neon sign that reads “PUFF. PUFF. LOVE.” and a large wall of apparel, accessories educational resources. The store is “Manitoba’s happy place” and although their name is Garden Variety, they promise to be “anything but”. GV is very active on social media, posting content regularly and engaging with their online community.
Prairie Records lives at the intersection of cannabis and music. The brand allows you to explore cannabis through a new lens – a record shop. Prairie Records allows you to choose strains the same way you would old-school vinyl – with strain names, brands, and experiences listed on record-shaped boxes displayed throughout the store. The store invites their customers to “celebrate community, inspire creativity and help you shop for weed in an approachable, judgment-free manner”. Prairie Records is owned by Decibel (formerly WestLeaf), which also owns licensed producer Qwest.
Sweet Tree is a prairie-based cannabis retail chain with locations across Alberta and one in Saskatchewan. The retailer wants consumers to know that “life can be this sweet” and invites them to visit their stores to “experience the new era”. The chain boasts seven locations in total and are opening more on a continual basis. Sweet Tree categorizes their offerings into four types to make for an easier shopping experience for consumers. Their “Earth” section contains CBD-only products, the “Moon” category offers Indica-dominant products, “Stars” are the hybrid category and “Sun” contains sativa-dominant offerings. This retailer recently combined with YSS, another prairie-based cannabis retail chain. The interior design of these stores includes wood paneling, plants, and bright, white lighting.
Best Cannabis Stores in British Columbia
Burb is as much a brand and fashion retailer as they are a cannabis store. Their clothing is high quality and carefully designed. With roots in British Columbia, this chain currently operates three stores in the province with a fourth one coming soon. Going past retailing – Burb will also be offering BC-grown flower in the Ontario market soon, as well as expanding to California and the USA market with strategic partnerships. Burb’s physical stores are open, inviting, and bright.
City Cannabis is “your urban oasis for fine cannabis goods” and is one of the first and largest cannabis retail chains to emerge from British Columbia. City’s stores feels like an urban oasis, with lush greenery and inviting, open spaces defining their design. The brand operates three stores in and around the Vancouver area along with one on Vancouver island in Comox Valley. City Cannabis was one of the first stores to implement a clear pneumatic tube delivery system – allowing customers to see their products being transported from the back to the cashier’s desk. City Cannabis’ knowledgeable budtenders have a focus on educating consumers about complicated cannabis topics such as terpenes and lesser-known cannabinoids. Escape from the hectic pace of city life to a serene urban oasis with City Cannabis.
THC Canada has been “setting the standard” for Canadian cannabis stores since before recreational legalization. THC is known to have curated the most extensive and impressive menu of craft-grown and high-quality cannabis products in the country, attracting many connoisseurs and legacy market consumers. Situated next to it’s sister business Dank Mart, THC has been named by Forbes the first and only independent cannabis destination in Canada. The brand has a deep commitment to craft cannabis and primarily stocks their shelves with BC-grown bud. The company defines itself as “legendary” and creates a large amount of unique social media and digital content that showcases local cannabis-friendly athletes, entrepreneurs, and other high achievers. THC’s store design has been described as a “futuristic spaceship”, the “Apple Store of Weed” and “cannabis heaven” – with Italian white marble floors and countertops and a living moss selfie wall. The brand currently has one location at 6416 Main Street in Vancouver, BC.
The Original FARM
This Victoria, BC-based cannabis retailer comes from the legacy market and now operates several locations across Vancouver Island. These shops resemble a high-end hotel lobby with open space and high ceilings. The Original Farm has a reputation for curating a high-quality menu. The store was originally opened in the legacy market back in 2015 and transitioned to the legal market in 2019. The store’s menu is the most extensive product selection on Vancouver island.
Village Bloomery is a legacy cannabis retailer with a strong, loyal following and devotion to inclusion and social justice. The brand was launched in 2015 and focuses on three core pillars – vitality, empowerment and community. They have owned the idea of creating a community or “village” that helps their customers experience love and feeling good. Their one store location is in Vancouver – right near Granville Island and Kitsilano beach. They have curated a thoughtful menu that includes BC-grown and organic flower and a wide range of topical cannabis products. Village Bloomery has great people, great products, great store design and a great brand.
Best Cannabis Stores in Quebec and the Maritimes
The reason that none of the aforementioned examples come from Eastern Canada is that these provinces have chosen government-run retail monopolies instead of allowing private market brands (with the exception of Newfoundland & Labrador).
In Quebec, the official legal cannabis distributor is called the SQDC (La Société québécoise du cannabis) and operates approximately 100 stores.
In New Brunswick, CannabisNB is the provincial cannabis retailer and has approximately 15 locations spread out across the province.
In Nova Scotia, the NSLC (Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation) is in charge of retailing and wholesaling. There is one dedicated cannabis store in downtown Halifax and cannabis can be purchased at select NSLC liquor store locations across the province. This is the only province that sells both alcohol and cannabis together in the same building.
In Prince Edward Island, the government operates 4 “PEI Cannabis” locations across the province.
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Last Updated on August 19, 2021 by ADCANN