Nova Scotia

NSLC to stock hundreds of cannabis products — just not many from here: CEO

The CEO of the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation is promising cannabis smokers plenty of choice when recreational cannabis becomes legal this summer but almost all of it will come from outside the province.

Inventory will include little product from locally grown suppliers

NSLC CEO Bret Mitchell appeared before the Nova Scotia Legislature’s public accounts committee on Wednesday. Mitchell said there will be 400 cannabis products or more available online. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

Nova Scotia cannabis users will have plenty of choice when legal cannabis goes on sale this summer, according to the CEO of the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation. But almost all of the supply will come from outside Nova Scotia.

"We anticipate that in the 11 stores that are not standalone, they will have somewhere in the neighbourhood of 150 products that will carry in store,"  Bret Mitchell told a legislature committee Wednesday.

"And the Clyde Street location, the central location will have probably double that, 300-plus."

Online NSLC customers will have even more choice.

"Online we expect to start, based on what we think is out there, probably in the 400 to 450 range."

The NSLC store on Joseph Howe Drive in Halifax, seen under renovation on May 1, will carry 300-plus cannabis products. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

"You're probably looking at somewhere, to start, around 40 strains, maybe getting up to 70 strains and within that there will be variants, in terms of sizes and packs of which the total number should come up to 100 to 150 of those in the regular stores," Mitchell told reporters after his committee appearance.

Local suppliers not ready

Although the liquor corporation has begun to highlight local beers, wines and spirits through special promotions and making more shelf space available for locally produced product, locally grown pot will be in very short supply, at least to start.

"Nova Scotia suppliers have told us they will not be ready for the start of when this goes live so I'm going to guess at best it could be two or three of what we think are 12 potential local suppliers that will be in the mix to start," Mitchell told committee members.

Mitchell said the problem was none of the local suppliers have been licensed by Ottawa yet.

"They can't cultivate until they have a cultivation licence," he said. "So once they get that then they can start growing, and once they're successful on that and they have, I believe, two crops approved by Health Canada, they then can apply to get their sell licence and then they can sell to us."

50,000 kilos of cannabis

If the 12 who have approached the NSLC are licensed and start production, Nova Scotia's home-grown market could generate more than enough cannabis to fill all of the corporation's needs, Mitchell told the committee.

"The 12 have told us they're going to be able to, within a year of having their cultivation-and-sell licences, they're going to be able to produce around 50,000 kilos of cannabis," he said.

Mitchell estimates the NSLC will need 15,000 kilos a year to keep its shelves fully stocked.

Mitchell called cannabis sales a "major retail opportunity" that is currently taking up the time of 50 people at the NSLC's head office. That represents one-third of the corporate workforce.

Those people are focused on 12 major projects.

"Category management, implementation, human resources, IT development and the warehouse and distribution side, safety and security, they're all there," said Mitchell.

"It's quite a list."

80 new positions

The sale of pot is also a job creator at the corporation. The NSLC is looking to expand its current workforce of 1,400 clerks by about 80 to 85 people who will be specially trained to sell cannabis.

It's also considering getting rid of a longstanding ban on hiring people with a criminal record.

Mitchell says there's discussion at head office about eliminating that policy for people who have a record for possession.

"We're definitely looking at the issue," he said. "I can't confirm yet what we're going to do on that."

"If we are going to go outside and try to find people who are experienced in the product we have to recognize it may be a different world going forward."