Meet the runners-up: New crop vying to own Sask. legal pot shops where others failed

A new crop of hopefuls has a chance at owning a legal Saskatchewan cannabis store.

When the provincial government chose an initial slate of 51 proponents via a lottery in early 2018, it also set aside the names of runners-up for each community in the event the original candidates didn't work out. 

The Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) has now confirmed that out of 51 original proponents, six are no longer in the picture, thereby opening up the field.

Torrance Aitken, the oilfield servicer who had hoped to open a store in Weyburn, was disqualified from getting a retail cannabis permit, according to SLGA.

The authority declined to get into Aitken's case. Aitken himself has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

A company called Sun Pharm Retail Holdings Ltd. has now been offered a crack at that permit. It was one of 44 eligible hopefuls entered into the lottery for Weyburn, where two permits were up for grabs. 

Sun Pharm and other newbies have to undergo another round of vetting by SLGA and actually be ready to operate before receiving their permits. (Groups were already vetted to some degree when they entered the lottery.)

The post-lottery vetting focuses on good character and financial disclosure.

Withdrawn or declined?

In five other communities — Canora, Maple Creek, Outlook, Rosetown and Melfort — the original proponents withdrew their applications, according to the SLGA.

But Jean Paul Lim, a clinical instructor at the University of British Columbia who founded a Vancouver clinic meant to help patients access legal medical cannabis, previously told CBC News that his application to open stores in Melfort, Rosetown and Outlook was denied.

Lim has not responded to further requests for comment. 

The following runners-up have now been offered a chance to open stores in those communities:

  • Melfort: Corey Bacon, Rhonda Bacon and Curtis Hope.
  • Rosetown: Duane Braaten and Dixeshkumar Patel. 
  • Outlook: Brian Edward Spigott and Brian Paul Spigott.

"We are hoping to open as soon as physically possible," Braaten, a real estate agent in Prince Albert, said via email. 

The lotteries for Melfort, Rosetown and Outlook drew out 23, 22 and 18 ticket holders, respectively. 

Below is a breakdown showing how competitive (or not) each lottery was. 

Gosia Wozniacka/The Associated Press

Up on Maple Creek

Mary Daku-Walker and Krista Moscato, a surface land consultant in Calgary, were chosen as runners-up in Maple Creek. 

They were among a field of 15 would-be Maple Creek pot sellers. 

Moscato said she had been advised by SLGA not to speak to reporters. 

What about Canora?

Canora in particular has been a particularly difficult community to fill. Eighteen people entered that lottery. 

But the original winner withdrew their application. Then the first runner-up "did not meet the requirements to obtain a cannabis permit and the second runner-up has declined the opportunity," according to SLGA.

"SLGA is currently considering the matter. No decisions have been made," said SLGA spokesperson David Morris. 

There are still 10 other original proponents in other Saskatchewan communities who have not opened their stores.

They have until Oct. 16 to do or else the chance to win their permit may go to a runner-up.

The already announced runners-up have until the fall of 2020 to open their stores, according to SLGA.