After years of twists and turns, Buds by Cannilux was able to open earlier this year and they’ve been working to create community through cannabis while also supporting veterans ever since.
Joshua Both, founder and CEO of Cannilux, said Buds is the first cannabis shop in all of Canada to support veterans and first responders. Buds by Cannilux has been situated in Unit B at 255 Muskoka Road N since 2018, but due to COVID and other delays, the shop didn’t open until Jan. 31 this year. Both was inspired to work in the cannabis industry after serving in the military and volunteering as an auxiliary police officer. He got injured and retired from the army in 2011, and the pain from his injury made him struggle to stay fit and function normally.
“I got into medical marijuana instead of any sort of pain management through pills that I was prescribed up until that time,” Both said. “Essentially, it changed my life. I was able to work out again, I was able to rehab myself to the point where I became a firefighter in Huntsville when I moved up to Muskoka and it just changed my perspective on life.”
Both had originally planned to open a medical dispensary in British Columbia. The day he was set to fly across the country to do just that, Doug Ford announced that private retailers would be able to sell cannabis in Ontario, so Both cancelled his ticket and stayed put. He secured his retail space in Gravenhurst and got to planning the store.
COVID caused significant delays, but the store was able to open at 6 p.m. on Jan. 31 and the team at Buds made their first sales shortly after. Since they’ve had the same storefront and signage for years, not everyone knows they’re open, so they’re planning a grand opening on April 20, an annual holiday in cannabis culture.
Both plans to hold an annual celebration for 4/20, but until then, he’s excited to welcome the community into the store, which has a 1940’s movie theatre theme. The theme is a way to help staff and customers forget the struggles of their daily life while also acting as an homage to the veterans of World War II.
“That was one of the greatest times in Canada even during one of the worst times for the world because we always come together as Canadians whenever there’s something bad going on,” Both said.
A major part of his mission with his business is creating a positive pro-veteran, pro-first responder, pro-cannabis environment. In service of that, a portion of each sale will go to the Veterans House Charity based in Gananoque, Ontario. Veterans House provides funding and development tools to various organizations that create programs and services to support the mental health of veterans and first responders.
Both hopes to someday provide all the funding Veterans House needs to operate. He chose the organization as the primary charity not only for Buds but also for Cannilux. His license allows him to open 75 shops in Ontario, so he’s hoping to open a second location later this year and continue opening shops until they’re scattered across the province.
He also hopes to expand into the United States if and when cannabis is legalized there, but no matter where the business takes him, he plans to continue supporting veterans along the way. People who serve in the military and on the frontlines often don’t ask for help until it’s too late, Both said, so it’s important to create support systems for veterans to help them avoid homelessness, drug addiction and other risks of post-service life.
“Once you’ve put purpose back in these people’s lives, a lot of the suffering just goes away, because that’s half the suffering,” he said. “Especially in the mentality of a service person, frontline and first responders included, because these are the type of people who will suffer in silence so that you feel better.”
It’s part of the culture at Buds to destigmatize cannabis use for veterans and frontline workers, and they also aim to normalize cannabis use as an alternative to alcohol and other drugs. In a society that glorifies beer, wine and whiskey, Both said cannabis can be an amazing recreational alternative when used appropriately. It can lower mental stress and ease pain, he said, allowing people to relax without having a hangover the next morning.
Customers at Buds can also rest assured that every item on the menu is high quality. They believe in every product they sell, and while a lot of cannabis retailers are focused on making money, Both said the focus at Buds is customer satisfaction. Their staff is trained to help customers find what they need, whether or not it’s at their store.
“Many times over the last seven weeks, I’ve referred to other shops just because we didn’t have that in stock and I knew they did,” Both said. “I would much rather that customer be happy and get the right smoke than buy whatever I had in stock at the time.”
In addition to treating customers better, Both aims to treat his employees better than other retailers. He offers stable jobs with flexible hours and higher wages than other shops, and he said all the staff he’s hired so far have been amazing.
The town has also been phenomenal to work with, so he’s looking to thank Gravenhurst by offering the kind of jobs Muskoka needs. He hopes to open Cannilux’s executive offices in Gravenhurst and create five to 25 more full-time jobs in the process.
Supporting the region where he made memories as a child and where he’s lived for nearly a decade means a lot to Both. He hopes to inspire a shift in the cannabis industry where more retailers start to support charitable causes and start to treat their employees and customers better. Though he’s still early on in his career plans, he’s humbled and honoured to see his dream job become a reality through Buds.
“In the army, I was a private,” Both said. “Now I kind of feel like a captain to a major to a colonel, depending on what day of the week it is.”
This post is sponsored by Buds by Cannilux.