Manitoba gives private sector a retail role in recreational marijuana

Manitoba became the first province in Canada to carve out a space for the private sector to participate in recreational marijuana sales, unveiling a “hybrid” model that gives entrepreneurs and the public sector a role.

The ruling Progressive Conservative party resisted pressure from public-sector unions to hand marijuana sales exclusively to civil servants.

The Manitoba government will soon issue a request for proposals from applicants seeking to operate privately owned retail locations once adult-use sales begin next year.

The deadline for submissions is Dec. 22, with initial locations to open July 2. (The federal government plans to legalize adult-use cannabis July 1, which is a Sunday.)

Manitoba’s hybrid model will give the government’s Liquor and Gaming Authority an expanded mandate to regulate the entire sector.

The Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Corp. will oversee wholesale and distribution, leveraging economies of scale through bulk purchasing to undercut black-market pricing.

Here’s what you need to know about adult-use cannabis sales in Canada:

  • Manitoba’s proposed system puts the province’s only two licensed producers – Bonify and Delta 9 Cannabis – in a good position to capitalize.
  • Manitoba’s decision represents a sharp turn from plans by Ontario and New Brunswick to sell recreational marijuana through government-owned stores. Quebec also is expected to use a government-run approach.
  • Private businesses will be barred from selling marijuana to almost two-thirds of Canada’s population.
  • British Columbia and Alberta haven’t decided what their retail models will look like yet.

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