New Brunswick plans to sell recreational cannabis through government-run liquor stores once legalization hits.
New Brunswickers will be able to purchase legal marijuana through the province’s liquor commission. The New Brunswick government plans to enter the legal-cannabis retail market by having New Brunswick Liquor stores set up a network of tightly controlled, stand-alone shops starting next July.
Finance Minister Cathy Rogers declared how the province will sell recreational cannabis starting in 2018. Rogers said areas that already have legalized marijuana sales, recommended the province strictly control sales, creating a tight government oversight. “Their advice was to start with tight government oversight in the beginning,” Rogers said. “We want to ensure that cannabis stays out of the hands of youth and criminals.” Rogers believes that the New Brunswick Liquor stores are a great fit for this role.
“New BRUNSWICK Liquor has the experience in the retail market selling a regulated substance, and we believe their knowledge and expertise will provide for a smooth transition into this new territory.” – Cathy rogers
With the plan to regulate the use of recreational cannabis, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, as well as the Canadian Cannabis Chamber, announced their strategy earlier this fall. Cannabis in New Brunswick will also be sold in stand-alone retail locations, independent from liquor stores.
According to NB Liquor CEO, Brian Harriman, the corporation isn’t going to be asking the government for the power to sell legal cannabis in its storefronts. However, Brian Harriman told MLAs committee that the crown corporation would still like to sell cannabis once the federal government plans to legalize. Selling marijuana in existing liquor stores won’t be a recommendation, he said. Once the province picks an option, NB Liquor will make a more formal, detailed recommendation.
Harriman, as well as members of a federal-provincial working group, agree there are a public benefit and a public safety benefit to not co-locating alcohol where possible with marijuana. “Though in some instances people might choose to use those substances together, there is a public health benefit to keeping them separate.” Harriman states.
“Marijuana won’t be in the current, existing NB Liquor stores, but one potential model that’s out there would be for NBL to operate dispensaries separately from our alcohol stores.” NB Liquor CEO, Brian Harriman
Harriman said the stores will be set up in 15 communities and will measure about 2,500 square feet or 232 square metres.
Up to 20 stores will be established, keeping aligned with the strict policies in place. Cannabis stores will be located at least 300 meters away from schools, the staff is expected to only display products under glass, and customers will need to show proof of identification stating they are of legal age before they can even get in.
Identification must be required to enter the stores in order to ensure all patrons are of legal age to use cannabis. There’s no decision yet on what the price will be, what the stores will be named, or what the legal age restriction will be. New Brunswick has yet to officially set its age limit for cannabis consumption, however through a legislative report previously released by the province has suggested 19 to be appropriate.
“No one under the legal age will be allowed inside the premises. That will happen at the reception area, after which people will be able to enter the retail environment,” NB Liquor president Brian Harriman told a news conference.
New Brunswickers who are too young to buy cannabis legally will find it harder to buy illegally because the stores should drive most illegal dealers out of business, Harriman said.
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“The product will be displayed under glass cases and it will be a one-on-one shopping experience … We will ensure our retail staff is highly trained and able to educate and help people who want to learn about cannabis have that opportunity in the store environment.” – Brian Harriman
There will also be an online platform for purchase, with options for both in-store pickup and home delivery. Online sales will also be allowed, however, we are still waiting for the details to be worked out yet. One option is “click and collect,” which allows customers to order online and pick up at a certain location.
Another is delivery by trained staff, who check identification at the door. NB Liquor aims to break even with the stores in the beginning. The priority is not to make a profit but to keep cannabis away from children and undercut the illegal market, Harriman said.
Harriman said the provincial working group members will present three options to the Gallant government in the coming weeks: NB Liquor running separate dispensaries, the private sector running them, or a mixed public-private model.
“There is much work to be done in a very short period of time,” NB Liquor chief executive officer Brian Harriman said at a Wednesday morning news conference. “But we are confident we will be able to develop the proper system for the distribution and retailing of legalized recreational cannabis.”