Saskatchewan

Sask. government killing pot permit lottery system, scrapping cap on number of stores

The Saskatchewan government is opening up free market access for new retail cannabis stores beginning next spring with communities of less than 2,500 people.

Retail permits open in spring 2020 in smaller communities, provincewide in fall 2020

The Saskatchewan government is scrapping its pot licence lottery and the cap on how many stores can be opened. (Gosia Wozniacka/The Associated Press)

The Saskatchewan government is opening up the market for new retail cannabis stores.

Prior to the legalization of recreational cannabis in October 2018, Saskatchewan used a lottery to determine who would be able to open shops. In April 2018, the province received a combined 1,500 applications for 51 permits in 32 communities and First Nations.

Now the Saskatchewan government is scrapping the lottery system and the cap on how may stores can be opened.

"We believe opening the market to more retailers will help meet customer demand while also helping discourage competition from unlicensed stores," said Minister Responsible for Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Gene Makowsky in a news release.

Beginning next April, applications will be accepted for stores in communities of less than 2,500 people.

In September, SLGA will start accepting retail permit applications for new cannabis stores provincewide.

There will be no limit on permits. Municipalities will decide how many stores they wish to have.

Makowsky is hoping the changes will help squeeze the black market by lowering legal prices.

"There is obviously a minimum price where it makes sense to do business, of course competition leads to more choice and more convenience and normally better pricing."

Communities can opt out and successful applicants will be subject to SLGA's permitting requirements, including a character check, inventory tracking and store security. Applicants will also need to meet local municipal requirements, including zoning.

Cannabis supply will still come from federally licensed producers and permitted wholesalers registered in Saskatchewan.

"The phased-in approach is a balanced approach that will allow existing retailers to continue to operate and grow their customer base while facilitating timely opportunities for store openings in smaller communities," Makowsky said.

The province is also scrapping the rules around concentration of ownership in communities of more than 2,500, a move the NDP says is concerning. 

"Alberta's model of a 15 per cent cap on the market share would be a great opportunity for the Sask. Party to encourage local growth and small business and it's disappointing to not see this," said NDP MLA Nicole Sarauer. 

Sarauer said the NDP is in favour of the open market model and hopes it works for consumers.

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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