Saskatchewan phasing in ‘open-market system’ for cannabis store permits

The Canadian province of Saskatchewan is following Alberta’s lead in adopting a market-based system to allocate cannabis store permits, a move that will greatly expand the number of retail opportunities available for entrepreneurs.

By scrapping the 51-store limit, the province is opening the door to faster growth in the regulated market for adult-use cannabis – a market that has been held back in Saskatchewan by a lack of new store openings.

Sales of recreational cannabis in the province have barely risen in the past five months, growing from 6 million Canadian dollars (4.6 million) in April to CA$6.8 million in August, according to the latest Statistics Canada data.

“We believe opening the market to more retailers will help meet customer demand while also helping discourage competition from unlicensed stores,” Gene Makowsky, the minister responsible for the Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA), said in a news release.

The SLGA will accept applications for cannabis retail permits starting in April for communities with populations under 2,500.

In September 2020, the provincial regulator will accept license applications for retail outlets in all communities.

Permits for the current crop of 51 stores were handed out via a lottery.

The supply of cannabis in Saskatchewan will continue to come from federally licensed cultivators and permitted wholesalers.

Saskatchewan will join Alberta and British Columbia in adopting an open-market system for cannabis stores.

Alberta has 311 listed cannabis providers.

New store openings are the biggest driver of retail sales in Canada.

Sales of recreational marijuana across Canada rose to CA$127 million in August, buoyed by new store openings in British Columbia.

After a slow start, British Columbia is rapidly expanding its cannabis retail opportunities. Store licenses issued in that province rose from 14 in March to 94 in September.

Dozens more are expected to open in British Columbia in the near future.