Stick & Stone Cannabis co-founders, Dennis Schafer and Sarah-Jane Nelson in the former location of Fernie Stop & Shop. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Former Fernie councillor co-launches cannabis company

“Our mission, our goal - it’s about education. It’s about de-stigmatizing” - Dennis Schafer

Former Fernie councillor Dennis Schafer no longer has a seat in local government, but rather sits at the head of a new company proposed to open soon in Fernie.

Located in the old Stop & Shop off Highway 3, president and co-founder Dennis Schafer and his business partner and co-founder, Sarah-Jane Nelson have proposed to open Fernie’s second non-medical retail cannabis store, under the name Stick & Stone Cannabis Co.

This would serve as Fernie’s second cannabis store, as Compass Cannabis Clinic opened earlier this year. However, it would be Fernie’s first independently run cannabis store.

Schafer says this has been a dream of his since he was 18. He explained he has put everything into this project. His ultimate hope is that this business is successful, so that he is able to stay rooted in the town he loves. The now 36-year-old says their mission is simple.

“I’ve always been passionate about it, and I’ve always known that it (cannabis) has been given the wrong stigma,” said Schafer.

“Our mission, our goal – it’s about education. It’s about de-stigmatizing,” he said.

For both, this has been an ongoing project for the past few years. The two first started collaborating after Nelson started presenting to Fernie council in July of 2016 about the legalization of cannabis. She presented again in February of 2017, at which point Schafer approached her about a potential partnership.

Nelson, a registered non-practicing nurse, first started researching the benefits of cannabis two years ago, and took part in the first university course on medicinal cannabis two years ago. She is an advocate of the Compassion Project, a travelling photography exhibition coordinated by the Elk Valley Harm Reduction Collaborative to increase awareness and understanding of drug use.

For the past two years, Nelson has been using medicinal cannabis as needed to treat symptoms associated with her chronic illness.

“I’ve done enough research that I’m confident in my choice and my quality of life is better with less alcohol, and cannabis as an alternative to help me with my symptoms,” she told The Free Press in March of this year.

When Nelson and Schafer first started to look into opening their own non-medical retail cannabis store, they found there were endless hoops they had to jump through. Schafer recalled an exciting moment for them when they received approval to take over the old Stop & Shop – but then the hard work began.

“It’s hard, it’s baby steps,” he said.

The two recently received feedback from the Province about their application, stating that only minor adjustments were needed before the application could be brought before local government. If it receives support through resolution, the application will be brought back to the Province for final approval.

The hope is that Stick & Stone will be open by the new year.

Stick & Stone will feature not only the licensed non-medical retail cannabis store, but also a lounge where individuals can sit by a fireplace and inform themselves about proper use of cannabis. Schafer says this will serve as a great way to promote education.

“It’s going to be a hub of education,” he said. “We’re going to host panel discussions, community engagement pieces, bring in some heavy hitters.”

Schafer explained that they have had many opportunities to serve as an expansion of a franchise, such as Spiritleaf, Compass, and others, however, he believes that the movement that he and Nelson are pursuing has to be built from the ground up. He admitted this presents a lot more risk to his business, but believes it provides more potential to turn the business into something great, and help more people. He explained that their focus will not be about making money, but rather about helping others.

Both Schafer and Nelson expressed their gratitude towards everyone, including the owners of the building, who have been supportive and accommodating as they worked to make their business a reality.

Once open, Schafer says they will be offering the 151 strains of cannabis offered by the Liquor Distribution Board in B.C. They will be offering the same products as all licensed B.C. cannabis stores.

Schafer highlighted the products that they will be focused on promoting, which include handcrafted, small batch, B.C. grown cannabis by producers such as Tantalus Labs (Vancouver), Broken Coast Cannabis (Ladysmith), Whistler Medical Marijuana Company (Whistler), and others.

“Those are the licensed producers, the product that we want to carry … the licensed producers that have integrity and that are doing it for the right reasons,” said Schafer.

He highlighted some initiatives by Tantalus Labs, including growing their cannabis outside in natural light. The company is very focused on reducing energy use and promoting a form of production that reduces greenhouse gases.

“We want to align ourselves with people like that, that are making great steps in the right direction,” said Schafer.

Schafer says he’s excited for the future and what this will mean for Fernie and surrounding areas. He recognizes that with Compass Cannabis not far away from their store, there will be competition, but says that competition is good, and that he does not feel threatened.

“We should be doing this collaboratively,” he said, referencing the Kootenay Outdoor Producer Co-op. Read more: Nelsonstar.com/news/cannabis-co-op-coming-to-kootenays.

The estimated date of opening, at this point, is still unknown. Schafer says they hope they can open their doors by Christmas of this year, but says it will realistically be some time in the new year.

The new shop will be located at the old location of the Fernie Stop & Shop, 891 7th Avenue.

More information about date of opening will be published as it becomes available.

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The proposed exterior of Stick & Stone Cannabis Co. Submitted

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