Sask. hands marijuana sales to private sector

Province announced a pot strategy last week that will see the Sask. Liquor and Gaming Authority regulate the sector

Cannabis sales in Saskatchewan will be handled by private retailers, the provincial government announced Jan. 8.

“Both wholesaling and retailing of cannabis will be conducted by the private sector and regulated by the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority,” said Gene Makowsky, minister responsible for SLGA.

SLGA will issue about 60 retail permits for standalone storefront operations in 40 municipalities.

Two rural municipalities met the criteria for a permit by virtue of a population of at least 2,500.

The RMs of Corman Park, near Saskatoon, and Edenwold, near Regina, could have at least one retailer each, as could the Lac La Ronge, Onion Lake and Peter Ballantyne First Nations.

Population centres larger than 2,500 qualify for additional permits.

Makowsky said municipalities have the ability to opt out.

“Some may choose to proceed. Some may opt out entirely, while others may opt out right now but decide sometime later to allow a cannabis retail outlet in their community,” he said. “Government will respect whatever decision they make.”

The storefront businesses could also have an online store. They will be limited to selling cannabis, cannabis accessories and ancillary items.

Makowsky said the approved retailers must track and report cannabis inventory. An independent third party will help SLGA select the retailers. Initially, applicants will be screened for financial capacity and the ability to track inventory.

The second phase will be a random selection, or lottery, of the qualified applicants. They also have to meet “good character” criteria.

The province has yet to reveal its full cannabis strategy as Canada moves toward legalization, but expects to finalize the retail application process in the next few weeks and the minimum age for consumption later this spring.

Officials said they want to enter the retail process slowly. Although the minimum population is 2,500, that doesn’t mean one outlet for every 2,500 people. For example, Regina already has about a dozen stores, but the retail process at this point is calling for six.

The other communities eligible for retail outlets are: Assiniboia, Battleford, Biggar, Canora, Esterhazy, Estevan (2), Fort Qu’Appelle, Humboldt, Kindersley, La Loche, La Ronge, Lloydminster (2), Maple Creek, Martensville, Meadow Lake, Melfort, Melville, Moose Jaw (2), Moosomin, Nipawin, North Battleford (2), Outlook, Pilot Butte, Prince Albert (2), Regina (6), Rosetown, Saskatoon (7), Shellbrook, Swift Current (2), Tisdale, Unity, Warman (2), Weyburn (2), White City and Yorkton (2).

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