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Please sell responsibly: Ontario launches cannabis retail training

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It will take four hours of online training before employees can step behind the counter of a pot shop in this province.

That’s the average length of time a mandatory course known as CannSell will take prospective workers in Ontario’s forthcoming cannabis stores to complete, its builders say.

A grow room at Canopy Growth’s Tweed facility in Smiths Falls, Ont. For retail workers, a program has been set up in advance of the first stores, coming April 1.
A grow room at Canopy Growth’s Tweed facility in Smiths Falls, Ont. For retail workers, a program has been set up in advance of the first stores, coming April 1.  (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Created by the cannabis resource company Lift & Co. and MADD Canada, the program was announced this week by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario as the sole certification program for all store employees.

“By law everyone that touches cannabis (in) retail essentially has to have this course,” said Lift and Co. head Matei Olaru.

“CannSell is meant to educate cannabis retail employees on the responsible sale of cannabis and their legal and regulatory obligations,” Olaru said.

The $49.99 (plus tax) course will be offered starting Feb. 25 and will have to graduate its first class in time for the scheduled April 1 opening of Ontario’s 25 initial brick-and-mortar shops.

Read more:

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Central to the self-guided program, said MADD Canada CEO Andrew Murie, is its focus on responsible sales.

“The drug presence in (road) fatalities is three times what it is for alcohol,” Murie said. “We’ve done an amazing job on alcohol so we need to applaud ourselves for that, but we still haven’t had the same rigour around cannabis.”

Murie said safety issues covered in the course will largely mirror those found in the Smart Serve Ontario training program, required of LCBO workers.

Most important, he said, are the program’s focus on the legal liability that stores could face; federal and provincial regulations surrounding pot; and the ability to recognize both cannabis and alcohol impairment.

“If you train people to know their jobs so they don’t serve minors, they don’t serve intoxicated people, that lowers the incidence of potential impaired driving,” Murie said.

But he said ongoing alcohol and gaming commission inspections must ensure that the rules taught in the online program are being enforced at shop doors and counters.

“If we can tighten up on that (responsible service) then that goes a long way to reducing the harms.”

The course will also delve into the risks, harms and responsible use of cannabis and provide an overview of the plant and its history. The latter aspect, Olaru said, will give store employees the grounding they need to build an expertise in cannabis products that consumers will demand.

Some 70 per cent of consumers rank a strong product knowledge among store staff as the top feature of a cannabis outlet, a 2018 industry report by Deloitte Canada found. Olaru said Lift could take the lead on further product education among store employees.

“CannSell is very much a foundation for you to even understand how to talk about products.”

The course will be taken individually online and students must score 80 per cent to pass. All retail managers and store owners must also be CannSell-certified under provincial rules. The program’s website, cannsell.ca, was to go live Thursday with an information package on the course.

A similar program is being offered by MADD and Lift & Co. in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and by many private stores across Canada.

Murie said CannSell programs are modular and that they can keep up with a changing industry — one that will see edibles enter the market next October, for example.

“The training needs to keep up with the marketplace,” he said. “So we designed it on that flexibility so every teaching element is a single component in the training so it can be removed, can be updated and slotted back in — components come in come out.”

Murie said he does not know if employees will be on the hook for the course costs or if store owners will cover them.

He said many LCBO applicants take the Smart Serve course at their own expense to boost their hiring prospects.

Joseph Hall is a Toronto-based reporter and feature writer. Reach him on email: gjhall@thestar.ca

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Anglais

Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme

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Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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Anglais

MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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