Manitoba selects mix of organizations to handle marijuana retail sales

The Manitoba government has selected a mix of organizations to handle retail sales of recreational pot when it is legalized across Canada later this year, including licensed producers, a medical clinic operator and First Nations communities.

The province said Friday it conditionally accepted a proposal from a joint venture between licensed producers Delta 9 Cannabis Inc. and Canopy Growth Corp.

It also accepted a proposal from Hiku Brands subsidiary Tokyo Smoke, which already has non-dispensary retail stores in Ontario and Alberta.

Manitoba also selected National Access Cannabis, which is expected to adapt its medical clinic model to cater to the province’s retail cannabis market. Licensed medical marijuana producer Tilray said Friday it had signed a letter of intent with National Access Cannabis to supply the Manitoba market.

The province also chose a proposal from a new corporation comprised of the Fisher River Cree Nation in Manitoba, Chippewas of the Thames First Nation in Ontario, Barrie-based MediPharm Labs, Toronto-based Avana Canada Inc. and Colorado-based Native Roots Dispensary.

The approvals are conditional on completing definitive agreements and other documentation.

“In the coming weeks, the Manitoba government will continue to work with these organizations on the next stages of due diligence including the number and location of retail stores each proponent will be permitted to operate under provincial licensing arrangements,” the province said in a statement.

More companies are likely to be named at a later date, said Russell Stanley, special situations analyst with Echelon Wealth Partners.

“The Minister of Growth, Enterprise and Trade noted that Manitoba wants a highly competitive retail environment, which we interpret to mean that additional retail licenses will be issued at some point,” he said in a note to clients.

Manitoba is one of several provinces that are allowing for private retailers to handle sales of recreational cannabis, while provinces such as Ontario have tasked government-run liquor boards to handle distribution of the drug.

The Manitoba government said it is confident that cannabis retail locations will be operating as early as July 2.

However, federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said Thursday that legalization by July is unlikely, as senators have struck a deal to hold a final vote on the legislation on June 7.

Provincial and territorial governments are expected to need eight to 12 weeks following royal assent to prepare for retail sales, she noted, meaning legal pot won’t be available until at least early August.

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