A man holds holds a handful of cannabis buds at the CannTrust Niagara Greenhouse Facility, in Fenwick, Ont. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS

New Brunswick receives eight proposals to privatize cannabis sales

FREDERICTON — The New Brunswick government has received eight responses to a request for proposals for the operation, distribution and sales of recreational cannabis in the province.

The government issued the call for proposals in November, saying that losses incurred by Cannabis NB — the provincial cannabis corporation — persuaded the government it was time to turn to the private sector.

Finance Minister Ernie Steeves says the interest shows entrepreneurs are ready to invest in New Brunswick.

“Opening this new sector of activity to business is a tangible example of our government’s commitment to energize the private sector,” Steeves said.

Cannabis NB, a provincial Crown corporation, lost almost $12 million in its first six months, and although sales are on the rise, it continues to operate in the red.

Steeves said the previous Liberal government went with a bad business model that stuck the province with expensive leases on 20 stores across the province. He also said Health Canada regulations make it hard to be successful.

The province received proposals from Canopy Growth Corp., and Loblaw Companies Limited in Ontario Fire and Flower Inc., and YSS Corp., in Alberta New Brunswick Association of Cannabis Distributors and RSL NB in New Brunswick, as well as Green Stop Cannabis Ltd., in Nova Scotia, and Kiaro Brands Inc., in British Columbia.

The proposals will be evaluated in the coming weeks through a process that the province says will be overseen by a third-party fairness monitor.

Premier Blaine Higgs said there won’t be any politics involved.

“This process is truly one of complete independence. I will not be involved in it, nor will my colleagues be involved in it. It’s going through a very rigid analysis,” he said Monday.

The exercise could result in the announcement of a private operator this spring, with transition to the new delivery model later in the year, according to a statement from the New Brunswick Finance Department on Monday.

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