Saskatchewan

'We're doing the best we can': Minister defends lack of Sask. cannabis retailers operating on legalization day

With only six of 51 approved cannabis stores open on legalization day, the minister responsible says the delays were expected.

Six of 51 approved cannabis retailers opened on Wednesday

The Minister responsible for Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Gene Makowsky says the government has 'worked hard' to get to legalization day. (CBC)

With only six of 51 approved cannabis stores in Saskatchewan open on legalization day, the minister responsible says the delays were expected.

Gene Makowsky, who is responsible for Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming (SLGA), said Wednesday the province wanted to delay legalization but its hand was forced by Ottawa.

"Keep in mind it's not our government's initiative but this was from the feds. We're doing the best we can. I don't think it's a huge surprise there is some supply issues when a new system is turned on overnight."

Makowsky said there are known hurdles for businesses to get over, including permits from SLGA, municipal permits, finding a retail space, hiring staff and establishing a supplier.

Locations that opened Wednesday include, North Battleford, the town of Battleford, Martensville, Esterhazy, Yorkton,  and near Pilot Butte east of Regina.

None of the 13 locations in Saskatoon (7) and Regina (6) opened on Wednesday.

"Several other provinces right across Canada are in the same situation. Calgary has two [legal shops] and a population over one million and only one government shop in all of B.C.," he said.

"This is a new legal product, so we as a province and as a government decided to err on the side of caution on the number of stores available."

Makowsky said the province would take 12 to 18 months after legalization to make a decision on increasing the number of retail stores. He added it would be up to consumers to decide.

NDP says government missing out on revenue

NDP MLA and critic for SLGA Nicole Sarauer said the lack of open stores and the cap on permits mean a lost revenue opportunity for the province.

Sarauer said there are challenges with legalization, namely policing, but she said lack of government action has compounded the delays.

"The Sask. Party has been dragging their feet and they seemed quite afraid of this process to begin with, which is what took so long," Sarauer said.

Corrections

  • A previous version of the story said there were seven opened stores, including Moose Jaw. A store in Moose Jaw did not open on Oct. 17.
    Oct 18, 2018 10:43 AM CT

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for more than 14 years. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

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