Clay Sparks is the Owner of Flower Power Cannabis Pharms in La Loche, Saskatchewan. Our member interview series highlights independent retailers who are dedicated to a thriving grassroots cannabis industry in Canada. Co-op members have pooled their resources to negotiate a fair price and equal opportunity in the marketplace and believe in hard work, fair play, and integrity above all else.
When did you first become involved in the cannabis industry and why?
CS: For whatever reason, I listened to the fear-mongering surrounding cannabis and didn’t try it until I was 27. I was married, I had a kid, I had a business. I wasn’t just some young punk trying to get high. The purity of emotions was like a return to childhood for me. It was a very special, profound experience.
I got curious about the plant and the industry and founded Flower Power in 2013. The name was chosen as a nod to the hippie movement of the 60s which is often associated with cannabis and the ubiquitous cannabis leaf. I wanted to turn consumers’ thinking back to the bud; the flower, because this is where the power is. I’m not a dealer.. I’m a florist!
I had a company name but wasn’t sure how to get into the game and play without going to jail. I got involved with a Licensed Producer (LP) who was looking at doing medical production but it didn’t work out. When it was announced cannabis would be legalized in 2018, I thought I had to get involved somehow. At the time, I was already hosting cannabis discussions at my yoga studio called SparkUps where experts would share their knowledge and experiences with others. These events were well received and I still get calls about bringing them back!
When Saskatchewan opened the lottery system for cannabis store licenses, I purchased a ticket for as many municipalities as I could (32). Being from Saskatoon, I wanted a licence there or in another large center. I recall joking about getting a licence in La Loche, and I did. It happened! I was dumbfounded at first, but it has turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
La Loche is a very unique, challenged, resilient community that has had trouble in the past. Many people doubted me, but I ended up being the ninth business to ever open there and the first in about 20 years.
A lot of people believed I was one of the licence holders who would do it right in La Loche. It made me feel good because they thought I would get it, and I did. I hired all local people to run the shop which has had a positive impact on the community. I am proud of my creation, my staff, and La Loche. It’s been a great experience.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced when working with cannabis companies?
CS: The biggest challenge for me has been competing with unlicensed stores and producers. My main competitor is the post office because there are lots of legacy products being sold online for prices I can’t compete with. Edibles are my primary concern because these unlicensed companies can sell products with higher levels of THC and more than 10mg volumes which I cannot.
What is the greatest piece of advice you have been given? In general, or in the cannabis industry specifically.
CS: My father, bless his heart, is no longer with us. He passed away when I was 23. He was a teacher; he in his career probably had other things he wanted to do and maybe should have done. Before his passing, he and I got to know each other as men. He wanted me to remember that I needed to follow my dreams; to honour myself and my passions.
This stuck with me, and I have lived my life that way since his passing. By following my dreams and listening to my ideas, I have had many opportunities.
Why did you first join Weed Pool and what has kept you involved?
CS: There is power in passion and there is power in numbers.
At the time of legalization, about 75% of the licenses in Saskatchewan had been awarded to or quickly acquired by corporate giants. This led me and other founding members to work together. We needed to create something that removed the opportunity for individual greed.
We’re not paying millions of dollars in stock options to C-suite executives. We operate lean and mean. Because of this, Weed Pool marks up products much less than other distributors while still paying fair prices to licensed producers and fair wages to staff. If it was a stock-market or individual-led project I don’t think we would have had the success that we now enjoy.
As a retailer, I almost exclusively order from Weed Pool because of the lower prices and fast shipping. Plus, I get an annual patronage-style refund relative to the amount I spend.
How has Weed Pool helped your business succeed?
CS: Weed Pool has hundreds of products available and more than I could ever order. There are certainly times when a customer asks for something Weed Pool doesn’t have. In those cases, I message our hard-working staff and they find it! Through a joint venture with an LP, Co-op members can also source their own products and white-label it for their stores.
Saskatchewan isn’t often the envy of the country for many reasons, but it is for the cannabis industry. Part of this is the strong reputation of Weed Pool.
What do you believe is your biggest competitive advantage as an independently-owned business?
CS: I am not influenced by what the policies and purchasing procedures would be for some large corporate chains with headquarters outside of the province. Because of that, we’re able to pivot; source unique products and support craft producers. That is something that I think is important. This industry was built by many small producers, not a few large ones.
Weed Pool can purchase large volumes when it needs to, but it can also purchase smaller volumes when it means consumers will get high-quality craft products.
What’s your favourite product right now? Please tell me the brand and product name and why.
CS: I’m on a tolerance break right now (haha), but one of the tastiest products I’ve had recently is the Sticky Greens Disti Sticks infused pre-rolls. I enjoy it because it tastes good and has flavour. Unlike other products I have tried, this one tasted how it smelled: like fuzzy peaches.
Weed Pool Cannabis Cooperative is dedicated to delivering the best-in-market products at fair prices for everyone. Together with Co-op members, we’ve pooled our resources to negotiate a fair price and equal opportunity in the marketplace. Visit our homepage to learn more and apply to join the Co-op as an independent retailer in Saskatchewan.