16 of Sask.'s 51 pot shops haven't opened their doors nearly a year after legalization
Stores in Weyburn and Nipawin remain on the bubble even as a potentially key deadline looms
Nearly a third of the 51 cannabis retail stores planned for Saskatchewan remain unopened — just over a month out from a potentially key deadline.
In June 2018, the Saskatchewan government announced 51 people or groups who had a chance to open one of the province's legal pot shops.
Would-be sellers were told they needed to open their stores within a year of the date cannabis was legalized in Canada — or they risked losing the business opportunity to a runner-up chosen in the same community.
That deadline — Oct. 16, 2019 — is fast approaching, and as of Monday, 16 out of 51 proponents had yet to open their doors, according to the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA).
Some proponents remain at a standstill because SLGA has yet to finish screening them and grant them a retail cannabis permit.
GreenTech Holdings and Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs Investment LP, which partnered to open a pot store named Cake in Nipawin, are in that boat.
"We are still waiting," GreenTech retail manager Shanon Forgues said Sunday.
"SLGA has assured they are doing everything they can and we hope to hear soon. Our store is built out so we are confident we can open before the Oct. 16 deadline."
'They are doing their best'
Forgues has previously explained that the partnership's high number of directors means SLGA has a lot of people to screen.
"We know it takes time and they are doing their best," Forgues said of the SLGA, adding that GreenTech is not concerned about the situation.
Dave Martyn, president and founder of Compass Cannabis, which won the chance to open one of two cannabis stores slated for Weyburn, said, "We have a location selected and are ready to begin build-out, which we have [lasting] six weeks."
"This would put us in a position to open by October 16," he added.
Martyn said he doesn't know what the hold-up is. Several weeks ago, his company asked SLGA for an update on the permitting process and the possibility of receiving an extension.
"No reply has been issued," Martyn said.
Previously, SLGA has said extensions might be possible but did not give any specifics.
At least three stores have not opened because their prospective owner was denied a permit.
Jean Paul Lim learned earlier this year that his application to open stores in three communities — Melfort, Rosetown and Outlook — was denied.
The SLGA declined to address Lim's situation, and Lim has since declined to comment, too.
CBC News has reached out to SLGA to ask if it has granted other proponents any extensions — whether to open their stores or continue to wait out the permitting process.
How SLGA vets people
SLGA's final review of applicants focuses on good character and financial disclosure, according to an information sheet sent to people who entered the lottery.
"SLGA is unable to issue a cannabis retail store permit to an applicant if SLGA has evidence that it considers credible and reliable that the applicant is not of good character," according to the request-for-proposal (RFP) sheet.
"In considering good character, SLGA will evaluate the character of individuals, partners, shareholders and corporations as well as any other key participants in the cannabis retail store proposed to be permitted."
The review also looks at "whether the proponent has sufficient financial resources to establish and operate the cannabis retail store."