'That's just what came out of the draw': 5 entities win 33% of Sask.'s 51 pot retail permits

One-third of the 51 available permits for selling legalized marijuana in Saskatchewan will be in the hands of one of five companies.

17 of 51 permits going to one of five companies

The permits to operate cannabis retails stores in Saskatchewan won't take effect until pot legalization occurs. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC News)

Although a large amount of permits to sell retail marijuana in Saskatchewan went to a small amount of companies, the government said the random lottery process was fair and open.

One-third of the permits to retail pot in Saskatchewan — 17  of 51 — will be owned by one of five companies. Gene Makowsky, the minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, said that type of thing will happen when there's randomness involved.

"It's not always what the numbers might entail. So again, random draw, transparent process," Makowsky said, likening the process to a draft lottery in professional sports.

"That's just what came out of the draw," he repeated.

Winners of the 51 pot permits were announced on Friday, three months after the province first announced its policy framework for legalized marijuana in Saskatchewan.

Minster responsible for the SLGA Gene Makowsky said criminal record checks will be required for the successful applicants. (Trent Peppler/CBC)

Marijuana is expected to be federally legalized later this year. 

The winners of multiple permits are:

  • Prairie Sky Cannabis Inc. won four permits to operate in Battleford, Estevan, Martensvile and Moosomin.
  • Synergy Five Investments will have the opportunity to open up three shops in North Battleford, Yorkton and Warman.
  • Tweed Grasslands, Yorkton (Canopy Growth Corporation) was the big winner, as they got five permits for the communities of Fort Qu'Appelle, Humboldt, Meadow Lake, Melville and the R.M. of Corman Park outside of Saskatoon.
  • A numbered company, 1159711 B.C. Ltd., won three permits for Melfort, Outlook and Rosetown. The contact for that company is listed as Jean Paul Lim. 
  • British Columbia's Aura Cannabis Inc. won permits in La Ronge and Saskatoon. 

Dwayne and Jill Anderson won a permit each in Regina. Their lawyer, Glen Lukach, declined comment.

CBC News broke down the odds of winning a permit in each of Saskatchewan's eligible communities. (CBC News)

'Good character'

On the topic of a "good character" check, SLGA president Cam Swan said there are multiple factors.

A criminal record — such as an impaired driving conviction — would not necessarily disqualify someone from obtaining a permit, Swan said.

"It has to be relevant to the business [they're] actually operating," he said of convictions in relation to good character. "It has to be recency, it has to be impact overall. So, there's a number of different criteria."

Theoretically, someone currently operating an illegal pot shop and selling pot and pot products over the counter would not disqualify them from a successful good character check either, if no charges have been laid.

Most permits going to provincial entrepreneurs 

More than two-thirds of the winners are from Saskatchewan or have operations in the province, according to the government.

There were more than 1,500 applicants who applied for the 51 licences. No applicant could apply for multiple permits in the same area. 

All together, there were 155 applications rejected before the lottery took place, Makowsky said.

He added there have been no criminal record checks conducted yet. The successful applicants will now undergo record checks.

If the winners are disqualified, there are two runners up for each permit who have not yet been notified.

Check out the full list of winners here.

Cam Swan, president of the SLGA, said a person currently operating an illegal pot shop would not necessarily be disqualified from a 'good character' check. (Trent Peppler/CBC)

By the numbers

Following Friday's statement by the minister, the government released a breakdown of how many applications were entered into the lottery draw per community. 

According to the government, Regina's draw had 157 applications in it, while Saskatoon's pool had 165. 

The smallest pool sizes were in La Loche and Maple Creek, which each had 15. 

A CBC analysis shows that in Regina and Saskatoon, the odds of winning a permit was roughly 3.83 per cent and 4.55 per cent, respectively.

Timeline to open up shop

The authority first screened would-be operators for qualifications "focused on financial and sales/inventory tracking systems," according to a press release issued Friday.

Qualified candidates were then chosen via a lottery draw. The process was supervised by auditing firm KPMG.

Those selected have 45 days to begin the permitting process. Operators must open up shops within 12 months of legalization.

If they don't do that, the permit goes back to SLGA and they look at the next person on the list, Swan said.

Pot shops will only be allowed to sell cannabis and cannabis accessories.

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With files from Stephanie Taylor


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