NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. (WIVB) – A cannabis retail store will open in Niagara Falls, Canada on Saturday. Called ‘Choom Cannabis’, it will be the closest spot for Western New Yorkers to buy legal marijuana.
Staff at the store, including Senior Vice President of Marketing Chris Gagan, is preparing for Americans to walk through the doors.
“I think that’s going to be a big part of our business, tourists coming from the Upstate New York area,” Gagan said.
The first retail pot shops in Ontario opened in April. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario is responsible for issuing licenses to open retail shops there. So far, officials have approved the opening of 22 stores. Currently, the closest one to Buffalo is in St. Catharines. But come Saturday, it will be Choom, which is just a five-mile drive from the Rainbow Bridge.
“I’m really excited about this,” said Shawna Iszak, a Niagara Falls, Ontario resident.
Iszak and other cannabis enthusiasts in Canada are allowed to carry up to 30 grams of the drug, which is still a Schedule I drug in the United States and illegal to sell and possess in New York State.
Iszak admitted to taking a drag of a joint just minutes before saying, “Marijuana is a wonderful thing. It’s better than alcohol.
“The only thing people are a threat to when they smoke marijuana is pizza.”
Americans who do buy cannabis from Choom are still not able to bring the drug back across the border. When the legalization of the drug took effect in Canada last October, U.S. customs officials tried to make that clear.
“This should go without saying, but we would like to emphasize that travelers entering the United States must be cognizant of what is in their possession,” Richard Roberts said back then.
Roberts is the Assistant Director for Border Security at the Buffalo Field Office of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
New data shared by customs officials suggest people may not be heeding that warning. Between October 2017 and May 2018, before legalization in Canada, customs officers in the Buffalo Field Office made 319 marijuana seizures, totaling 137 pounds. In that same time period the following year, after legalization, they made 717 seizures totaling 763 pounds.
“It’s very important that you don’t cross the border with it,” said Gagan.
Choom opened its doors at 10 a.m. on Saturday.