NB Liquor to operate retail cannabis through subsidiary – New Brunswick

The New Brunswick government has announced Wednesday that NB Liquor will handle recreational cannabis retail operations through a subsidiary when it becomes legal in July 2018.

Through the subsidiary, NB Liquor is expected to sell recreational cannabis in stand-alone stores.

Finance Minister Cathy Rogers said the stores will run under business rules and conditions set out by the Crown corporation.

“Our priorities are clear and we believe that today’s announcement is the best model to help us meet our objectives,” said Rogers at a news conference on Wednesday.

She said it’s important New Brunswickers have access to a safe, quality controlled product offereded in a socially responsible environment.

“Advice we have heard from other jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis, like Colorado and Washington, is to start with tight government oversight, which is what we are doing.” 

She said that NB Liquor also has experience in the retail market and the provincial government believes this will help provide a smooth transition into the new market.

The shopping experience

Brian Harriman, the chief executive officer of NB Liquor, said the corporation will make sure these stores prompte “social responsibility and responsible” consumption.

“This model will operate with more regulation and control than our retail network of liquor stores, but it will still be a pleasant shopping experience for people,” he said.

Harriman ensured the retail staff will be highly trained and will be able to educate people, who want to learn more about cannabis, in a one-on-one shopping experience.

Brian Harriman

Brian Harriman, president and CEO of NB Liquor. (Catherine Harrop/CBC News)

NB Liquor has also issued a tender for potential locations to sell recreational cannabis. The release said there will be up to 20 retail locations in 15 New Brunswick communities, none of which can be within 300 metres of a school or playground. 

All products will be under glass and customers will need to show their identification to get into the store.

The stores will also avoid any exterior displays, on windows for instance. Rogers said this will prevent minors from even getting into the store. However, the province still has not yet determined the legal age of cannabis use in the province. 

There will also be online sales to make sure distribution is sold provincewide.

Harriman said the Crown corporation is looking at models where people can pay online and pick up their order at the closest store or have it delivered to their home.

Other locations will be opened based on market capacity and the demand for it.

No news on cost

Rogers said there’s still no further information as to how much the recreational cannabis will cost because the province is still in discussion with the federal government on a tax regime.

“We have to be competitive so we will roll this out when we have these details,” she said. 

The government said it will also introduce the necessary legislative amendments related to the legalization of cannabis at the next legislative session.

Last week, NB Liquor called for proposals for retail spaces to sell cannabis in 15 New Brunswick communities. 

The Crown corporation’s tender called for 3,000-square-foot spaces and suggested the spaces will not be attached to the agency’s liquor stores. 

The facilities are to be “substantially completed” by May 31, 2018, the ad says. 

In September, the province announced it had formed a new Crown corporation to oversee the sale of recreational marijuana. 

At the time Rogers also said the Crown corporation won’t run retail operations, and that the province would work with “another entity” to do so. 

The province has signed agreements with two cannabis producers, Organigram and Canopy Growth, to be suppliers. 

They will supply at least nine million grams a year for sale in the adult recreational use market.  

An interim report in June recommended legalized marijuana be sold through a Crown corporation. 

“As we move forward with the anticipated legalization of cannabis … we will continue to work with the public, communities, law enforcement and all other partners and stakeholders to implement public safety and health protections,” said Rogers.

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