Cannabis NB expects sales of $45M in first year
Political uncertainty in province won't stop retail stores from opening next Wednesday, CEO says
With just a little over a week before recreational cannabis is legal, the provincially regulated distributor of the drug says it's set to go.
And the corporation expects sales of $45 million in the fiscal year ending March 30, Cannabis NB president and CEO Brian Harriman said Tuesday.
"We are ready," he said.
That's despite the political uncertainty over who will govern New Brunswick. Premier Brian Gallant, whose Liberals fell one seat behind the Progressive Conservatives in the election last month, has to win the confidence of the legislature to stay in power.
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But Harriman said Gallant's dispute with PC Leader Blaine Higgs won't stop pot stores across the province from opening as scheduled next Wednesday.
Because of start-up and operational costs, along with the short fiscal year, Cannabis NB may only break even or lose a bit of money, he said.
"At the end of the day, the province is not taking legalization of cannabis from a recreational perspective, not looking at it as a financial opportunity or as an economic mandate," he said.
"They're saying to us, 'Help us shrink the illegal market, help us protect our kids, let's regulate and control it, let's make sure we provide a good shopping experience and make it available across the province.'"
Harriman said cannabis legalization does create economic opportunities in terms of job creation, but the corporation isn't looking now at making a profit from recreational sales.
"Our mandate is public health and safety," he said.
He said there will be no advertising, promotion, marketing or attempts to recruit new users.
The 20 stand-alone stores will operate at the same hours as NB Liquor.
People entering the stores will be required to present ID at the door, instead of at the checkout line, as happens in liquor stores, and the cannabis stores themselves will be similar to a jewelry store or an Apple store, Harriman said.
Cannabis prices will range in price from $8 a gram to $16 a gram, and there will be a range in quality, as there is with liquor.
The stores will also sell about 14 different products used to consume cannabis.
Response to union concerns
Harriman said all staff have been hired and given 100 hours of training, plus training in customer service, product knowledge and safety. Employees are allowed to consume cannabis but not while they are working.
"Our goal, because most people don't have a great degree of knowledge, is to have our team to be super-educated on it, so they guide you on that experience so the product fits what you're looking for."
He also responded to concern that Cannabis NB workers are not part of the CUPE local that represents NB Liquor workers. He said it's the employees' right to choose whether to unionize.
"If they choose to unionize, that's great. If not, that's great too."
- With files from Information Morning Fredericton