Despite challenges, cannabis store opens near Canadian university in historic first

university dispensary

Last week, I went to the opening of Burb, the first dispensary close to a major university campus in the world. 

The store vibe matches the energy of its location in the University of British Columbia (UBC) village. Upbeat, young, and hip.

With the current restrictions in BC, groups like Burb are unable to sell their own branded products inside their stores (tied-house restrictions). The UBC location will carry a curated menu, from flowers, pre-rolls, and concentrates to topicals, edibles, and much more. 

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“It’s frustrating that we can’t sell our own Burb-branded products in BC, the one market where we live and work. We’re hoping the province adjusts their stance on white labeling rules for private retailers so stores can differentiate and become more competitive,” stated John Kaye, CEO and co-founder at Burb.

While the atmosphere was joyous with a DJ, giveaways, and a packed house, Kaye told me that the journey wasn’t always that happy.

“We had to pay the rent for an empty store for almost three years while finalizing all the licensing and inspections, but it’s all worth it,” he explained. 

According to Kaye, there were also a lot of protests and picketing—not from the village or shops but from a vocal minority opposition.

Going back to school

Cannabis culture has always been intertwined with student culture, even in pop culture. If you’re a fan of the Friends series, you probably remember the episode in which Ross was stuck with the Girl Guide cookies, and the answer was the munchies at college dorms.

Burb is committed to further education and de-stigmatization of cannabis, especially among the student community, while also bringing a new generation of cannabis consumers into legal cannabis spaces. 

“There’s still a lot of misconceptions and stigma, even after five years of it being legal, and it’s not accepted in many communities and cultures, and we believe we have an amazing opportunity to educate everyone about the plant,” said Peter Pittson, general manager at Burb UBC and co-founder of Book Club, a cannabis community and products company. 

Since the operator reached the eight-store cap according to the current restrictions on BC’s private retailers by opening this location, they’re working on expanding their presence, not only in Canada but internationally. But not in the retail business.

Outside BC, their main focus is on their products. They recently launched their wares in Newfoundland while continuing to grow in Ontario, Alberta, and California.

The UBC location is a huge milestone for Burb in particular and the cannabis industry in general. While they have no intention so far of expanding their retail to other places, this location can be the start of a new era of increased awareness about cannabis and, hopefully, a new generation where there’s no more stigmatization of the plant.

This article was submitted by a guest contributor to GreenState. The author is solely responsible for the content. 

Karen Habashi