The province of Manitoba is blazing a new trail for marijuana regulation in Canada. Unlike Ontario and New Brunswick, where recreational marijuana will only be sold at provincially-owned retailers, Manitoba plans to let private retailers sell cannabis to consumers.
The central Canadian province announced that plan earlier today, calling it a 'hybrid model' where the private stores will be operate under the oversight of the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corp. — a crown corporation that will secure the supply of marijuana and track sales.
Progressive Conservative Premier Brian Pallister said the move would save Manitobans money since the province would not have to pay for new storefronts. He added that stores will not be allowed to sell alcohol as well as cannabis. More regulations will be introduced to make sure stores don't start sprouting up near schools.
"This is a step by step process," Premier Pallister said during a press conference. He added that the number of stores allowed in the province, and the legal age to buy marijuana are among the many issues that will be settled down the road. For now, he's satisfied that the working model will provide Manitobans with access to marijuana in a market that encourages competition.
"This is important in terms of competitiveness," Pallister said of the 'hybrid model.' "This is one of the main concerns. It's fine to say, 'We have stores,' but people don't go to stores unless there's a competitive service or product being offered there."
Which means they could resort to the black market if they are unsatisfied with the product or service at licensed stores. And to make sure they don't have to travel too far, Pallister wants enough stores to ensure that 90 percent of the provincial population lives with a 30-minute drive of a retailer. The retailers will also be allowed to conduct online sales.
Applications for pot retailers are open now and will remain open until December 22, 2017. The government plans to launch the stores as early as July 2, 2018 — one day after the federal government's deadline to legalize recreational marijuana.