Buying legal weed can be a mind-bending experience even for seasoned potheads

Most new retail shops are designed to give off a space-age vibe with little attention paid to cannabis culture or product

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      The proliferation of pot shops in Canada may have made access to weed easier. But it hasn’t exactly made the buying experience any less confusing—or more enjoyable.

      It beats buying online—at least you’re able (in most instances) to get a close-up look at what you’re spending your hard-earned dough on.

      But even for seasoned potheads who know a thing or two about cannabis, the sheer number of varieties available can make buying a mind-bending experience.

      Not a week goes by, it seems, without some new strain with a catchy name coming out and promising a buzz that’s out of this world enters the market.

      Then there are the cookie-cutter environs of retail spaces themselves that can make the shopping experience feel a tad sterile. 

      Most new retail shops are designed to give off a space-age vibe with clean lines and modern fixtures. You could be forgiven for thinking you’ve walked onto the set of A Space Odyssey or into an Apple store. There’s not much attention paid to cannabis culture as most people know it. The upscale presentation is all part of the branding and packaging of weed. Just like the catchy names for new products, they’re designed to evoke a certain mood.

      The new shop that opened near my place follows a similar pattern. But it’s also got a bit of a more down-to-earth, Dead Head vibe. On one wall, is a personal touch—a selection of the owner’s picks, which suggests this shop isn’t just owned by someone lucky enough to cop a licence. 

      But it’s hard to know whether the special selections on offer are really that good or just stale inventory that’s being cleared for a given LP. Online forums provide some intelligence on products sold online. Most smaller retail pot shops, however, rely on a handful of LPs for their supply. Some have exclusive arrangements, which puts a premium on selection.

      So unless you have a bead on what you’re looking for, you’re hostage to the budtender behind the counter. 

      Efforts have been underway by some LPs to improve their product. The exponential growth in cannabis sales this pandemic suggests there is improved brand recognition among consumers. Being able to buy in bulk has attracted buyers from the illegal market in a big way. In fact, budget bud brands account for up to 40 percent of the flower sales of some LPs. 

      It should be a lesson to the market that what most cannabis consumers are looking for is consistency and value for money. All the other stuff is a distraction.

      Most major brands seem to be catching on to that, offering brands that target new users as well as more discerning cannabis users. Celebrity endorsements as a way to market pot also seems to be a thing of the past in Canada. So too, thankfully, is naming strains after Tragically Hip songs or the Trailer Park Boys. 

      Now if we can only do something about the decor.