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‘We’re rural people’: The new cannabis shop coming to Gilbert Plains

The owners of a new cannabis shop coming to Gilbert Plains, Man. say their store will be good for the community and help reduce crime, despite concerns from a few local residents.

The Vault Hemp & Cannabis Boutique is a Manitoba-made business that opened its first location in Ashern, Man. in 2021. Store co-owner Tim Mulvena said their diverse group of seven owners opened the cannabis store with the intention of expanding to multiple communities across rural Manitoba.

“We’re rural people, we believe in the small towns,” Mulvena said. “And we’re just trying to keep them going with having services and businesses in the community so people don’t have to drive to the city and take their business there. They can have these services available in the small towns.”

That first location – opened in an abandoned CIBC bank building that inspired the business name – quickly grew into two more, as The Vault opened stores in St. Rose du Lac and Arborg. Mulvena said business is booming and, as far he knows, the stores have not had any negative impacts on the community.

“I haven’t had a complaint come from a principal, I haven’t had a complaint come from the RCMP. I haven’t had any issues,” said Mulvena.

Citizens in Gilbert Plains, Man. brought their concerns forward last week at a public hearing for a proposed new location for The Vault at the site of a former restaurant in town. Jim Manchur, reeve of the RM of Gilbert Plains, said the hearing attracted more than twice the usual amount of attendees.

“A lot of it was just lack of information I suppose,” said Manchur. “People were wondering what sort of shop and where and why do we need it.”

The Vault would be the first cannabis store within the RM, though nearby Dauphin already has several shops. Manchur said some Gilbert Plains residents were worried about things like possible strong smells coming from the store and an increase in crime in the area. He said most of the concerns were alleviated.

“The public did show up and voice their concerns and, and we went through the process, and then we had the resolutions after the meeting,” said Manchur. “And in the end, we did approve the conditional use as well as the zoning changes.”

Mulvena said while he does understand residents’ objections, they have nothing to worry about. “I think a lot of people think that, ‘oh, the kids are going to be smoking pot now at school,’ and all this and that,” he said. “It’s very regulated, right? Kids can’t walk into our stores, you know, it’s 19-plus, it’s, stricter than most provinces where some might be 18.”

Mulvena said many of his customers have praised the benefits of their products. “We have cancer patients that come into our store that haven’t been able to sleep because of the radiation that they have been taking, and they’re desperate to have a good sleep,” he said. “So they try a CBN product and they come back to us the next day and say they had the best sleep since they started their treatments.”

As far as the crime concerns, Manchur said Dauphin RCMP have told them cannabis stores do not necessarily lead to more break-ins, and The Vault appears to be taking the proper precautions. “They’re going to have the security cameras and other measures in place to safeguard their facilities. So, I mean, we were quite confident that these applicants were quite professional and competent in what they wanted to do.”

Mulvena said a local cannabis store will also reduce the amount of grey- and black-market cannabis sales in the area. “It’s coming through the little local post offices and such, so we explain to people that by allowing cannabis stores in your community, you’re combating that organized crime.”

The Gilbert Plains location is one of five new stores The Vault hopes to open in Manitoba in 2024, bringing the chain’s total to eight across the province. Mulvena is confident that they will be able to put anyone’s mind at ease about their business.

“The minute that we get to speak to them and educate, then all of a sudden a lot of times that they follow us right into our store and we show them the product that we’re talking about, and they buy it, and they try it,” he said.

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