Cannabis N.B. plans 10 privately run stores aimed at reducing black market

·2 min read
Lori Stickles, centre, is president and CEO of Cannabis N.B. and says they aim to cut back on the illicit market with the new stores.  (Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick - image credit)
Lori Stickles, centre, is president and CEO of Cannabis N.B. and says they aim to cut back on the illicit market with the new stores. (Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick - image credit)

Cannabis N.B. has selected 10 communities across the province where it wants privately run cannabis stores to cut back on black market marijuana sales.

But the Crown corporation's president and CEO told MLAs during a committee meeting Wednesday it will likely be difficult for those already selling other types of items to add cannabis to their stores.

"It's going to be very difficult for an existing retailer with other products that they're selling to just integrate cannabis into that," Lori Stickles said during the public accounts meeting in Fredericton.

"If you have other people coming into your store to buy chips or pop or something else, that product is all going to have to be somewhere separate."

She said cannabis products would have to be kept out of sight for customers and can't be advertised.

Elizabeth Fraser/CBC
Elizabeth Fraser/CBC

The move to allow privately run stores represents a shift in the province's approach to selling cannabis after initially making the Crown corporation the exclusive legal supplier through 20 stores.

The Progressive Conservative government examined privatizing the entire operation, but opted against that last year. It then introduced legislation allowing some privately run stores.

Cannabis N.B. has issued requests for proposals for stores in Blackville, Bouctouche, Caraquet, Chipman, Dalhousie, Grand Bay-Westfield, Hampton, Saint Andrews, Saint-Quentin and Salisbury.

Staff told the committee that an estimated 50 per cent of cannabis sales are from the black market.

Stickles said the new shops aim to "hit those smaller areas of the province that are underserved and really allow us to go more head-to-head with the illicit market."

The stores won't carry Cannabis N.B. branding, but will sell products purchased wholesale from the corporation similar to N.B. Liquor agency stores. There will be a minimum retail price for the products, she said.

Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick
Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick

Ross Wetmore, MLA for Gagetown Petitcodiac, questioned whether the businesses will be able to make a profit.

"I think it's gonna be a very expensive business to be in," Wetmore said.

He asked whether illicit dispensaries could apply for the new stores.

Stickles said that would require those locations to undergo a fundamental shift in how they operate, given they're selling cannabis that doesn't come from Health Canada-approved growers.

"It would be basically a brand new operation that somebody would have to start up and they would have to play by all of the rules of Health Canada — no advertising, buying legal products," she said.

The RFP process is open until next month.