New Brunswick

Cannabis NB posts $19.3M sales, but still no word on its fate as Crown operation

Cannabis NB has reported sales of $19.3 million in its latest fiscal quarter, figures that land amid uncertainty about its future as a Crown operation. 

Latest quarterly results push sales for the last 52 weeks to $72.7 million, a 79% increase over 2019

Cannabis NB stores first opened in October 2018 but suffered low traffic and poor sales. Those problems have been largely fixed, with the organization earning about $200,000 per week in profit in its latest quarter. (Maria Jose Burgos/CBC News file photo)

Cannabis NB has reported sales of $19.3 million in its latest fiscal quarter, figures that land amid uncertainty about its future as a Crown operation. 

The figures push sales for the last 52 weeks to $72.7 million – a 79 per cent increase over 2019 – and position the agency to end the fiscal year in "a strong position," Cannabis NB's acting president and CEO Lori Stickles said.

Although the quarterly results are not audited, Stickles says the agency earned a net profit of $2.8 million during the final 13 weeks of 2020 and expects to return $10 million to the province by the end of the fiscal year in late March.

The results were achieved under the direction of former Cannabis NB CEO Patrick Parent, who announced his surprise resignation from the role just days before Christmas and after just 16 months in the position.  

The Higgs government had earlier said it would announce its decision on whether to privatize Cannabis NB by the end of 2020. But the year-end came and went without any such announcement, and the decision has now been pushed into the new year.

It's unclear what role, if any, Parent's Dec. 31 departure played in the postponement.

New Brunswick Finance Minister Ernie Steeves announced plans to unload Cannabis NB in November 2019 when it was a money-loser. It's now turning record profits regularly, with a final decision on privatization yet to be announced. (Mike Heenan/CBC News file photo)

Little information on when final decision will come

In November of 2019, following poor early results at Cannabis NB, Finance Minister Ernie Steeves announced it would be turned over to the private sector.  

A country-wide search for a company to take the agency over began, but grew complicated as Cannabis NB appeared to solve a number of its own supply and pricing problems and turned quarterly losses into profits.

Steeves said that could change the government's thinking on privatization, depending on the quality of offers it received, but there has been little information about where the final decision is leaning or when it will be announced.

Cannabis NB chairman John Correia, a PC Party loyalist installed on the board in 2019, suggested Wednesday he was supportive of the organization continuing on its current path.

"I am extremely pleased with the effort from the Cannabis NB team and the progress of the business over the last year," Correia said in a statement issued by the Crown corporation.

"The growth has been remarkable and I feel confident it is sustainable."

Correia is a former co-chair of the PC party's fundraising operation and an executive for Coast Tire, which was a corporate donor to Blaine Higgs' 2016 leadership campaign.

About the Author

Robert Jones

Reporter

Robert Jones has been a reporter and producer with CBC New Brunswick since 1990. His investigative reports on petroleum pricing in New Brunswick won several regional and national awards and led to the adoption of price regulation in 2006.

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