Weed Pool Cannabis Cooperative expands into BC
Published on May 5, 2023 by David Wylie
British Columbia’s retail landscape is about to get a lot more cooperative for independents—and increasingly competitive toward big chains and provincially operated BC Cannabis Stores.
About 40 retailers have signed up so far for the Weed Pool Cannabis Cooperative, which is launching imminently in BC.
Within several months, Weed Pool is expected to facilitate its first sales in the province through a unique portal for Direct Delivery that offers a single point of connection for licensed producers and retail stores.
Weed Pool is wordplay on Saskatchewan’s wheat pools, grain cooperatives created in the 1920s to give farmers a competitive edge against big corporations that dominated the market. It’s a first-of-its-kind cannabis co-op in Canada that was started in Saskatchewan by two store owners. The organization has since grown to include 90 independent stores across the Prairie province.
For their expansion to the West, Weed Pool has secured warehouse space in Kelowna, on the Lake Country border, and partnered with Connected Supply Chain Solutions to move cannabis products to members.
Brett Wells, CEO of Weed Pool, says Kelowna was a natural choice as a base for their BC operations.
“For a very long time the area has been rich in cannabis community and cultivation, so we saw that as a fitting spot,” he says in an interview with the oz.
The Okanagan’s central location also allows for next-day delivery to many stores in the province.
Wells says the co-op gives retailers advantages in the market. Larger numbers creates purchasing power, including better selection and access to more unique products.
He adds the co-op focuses on working together, including sharing tactics, insight, and support.
“The culture and the community of the cooperative model really makes it special. We’re working together but we’re competing at the same time. Our members no longer feel like they’re alone in the industry,” he says.
“We want to see the independents thrive.”
Retailer looks forward to Direct Delivery portal
One of the retailers who has signed on is Cory Waldron. He independently owns Mood Cannabis, which has two stores on Vancouver Island.
Waldron says he’s looking forward to the Weed Pool portal where he can order a variety of products from different companies through Direct Delivery in one place. He says different producers take payment in different ways, such as pre-authorized debit or e-transfer. Different invoices from different places gets complicated, he says.
The portal means there’s one payment and one invoice generated.
“I like the convenience of it,” says Waldron.
As a co-op, retailers also receive patronage payments, which could eventually add up for those who order consistently.
Waldron says he anticipates having a louder voice in the products that are curated by Weed Pool than he does currently with the provincial government through the BC Liquor Distribution Branch.
“You can actually have meaningful feedback with Weed Pool,” he says.
Weed Pool’s BC distribution based in Kelowna
Weed Pool has partnered with Kelowna-based Connected Supply Chain Solutions to store product and distribute cannabis to member retailers across BC.
Todd Sprieszl, COO of the company, says they wanted to help micro-cultivators reach consumers at a more affordable cost.
He showed the oz. around the Kelowna warehouse.
“We’re creating a vessel to get smaller producers to market. There’s a lot of cost savings to be had,” he says.
Their 16,000-square-foot space is licensed by Health Canada and has plenty of room to expand. It also includes space to keep products refrigerated. The company is already moving trucks daily from St. John’s, NL, to Victoria, BC.
Sprieszl says Connected Supply Chain Solutions has a fleet of refurbished sprinter vans to deliver to stores throughout the province. One of their biggest advantages in BC is the ability to get the product to market fast—only a day or two depending on where shipments are going.
The Weed Pool model will also help reduce costs for small growers.
Cannabis regulations in BC require 48-inch pallets be used, no matter how little product is being transported. That means a lot of wasted space, and it increases the cost for cannabis producers who are shipping limited amounts of cannabis. Being able to pick and pack orders for retailers by combining products from different companies to fill skids makes a difference.
“Being in close proximity to many local cannabis producers, our state-of-the-art facilities and advanced technology allow us to streamline the supply chain process and provide efficient and timely services,” says Connected’s CEO Cameron Nicks.
Nicks says the partnership is a valuable one for the industry.
The Weed Pool organization is looking at further opportunities for expansion in Canada.
Learn more and sign up at weedpool.coop.