Article by Drew Brown, Vice News
Just as the long Canadian winter now edges towards its terminus, so too can we see the first furtive signs of the country’s creeping cannabis spring. The thaw will come across the land in uneven patches thanks to Justin Trudeau downloading all the regulatory work to our varyingly dysfunctional provincial governments. And based on the Request For Proposals put out by the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation this week to prospective cannabis retailers, the cannabis industry in this province certainly risks coming out half-baked.
The recreational cannabis regime in Newfoundland and Labrador has been left predominantly to private sector retailers. (Consumers in particularly far-flung areas will likely be able to buy mail-order from an NLC online store.) In this initial phase of legalization, the NLC intends to give out 41 licenses, on average one per postal code—except for a few places like the Southern Shore or A0K across the Strait of Belle Isle. In the St. John’s metro region, there will be at least seven stores—and only one in the already head-shop heavy downtown core.
Four types of marijuana outfits can apply for a NLC license. Tier 1 is the standalone, dedicated marijuana shop curated by true sommeliers of skunk. Tier 2 is an enclosed store-within-a-store that minors cannot enter, otherwise known as the porno hutch model. Tier 3 is a dedicated service desk kept away from the cash where all the cannabis is kept, not unlike the way many natural health stores will also sell three-foot bongs in the shape of Bob Marley’s head on the second floor. Tier 4 is basically just like smokes in the corner store, tucked on a shelf behind a plastic flap.
So far, so good. But the devil is always in the details.
Applications are ranked according to a points system, with licenses granted to those retailers who score the highest. These points are awarded for a range of categories from interior product display requirements to the business’ distance from a “games arcade.” Cannabis is also classed as a form of hazardous waste, and retail applicants need to prove they have factored in the cost of its safe disposal. In cases where the top applications for an area only come from Tier 1 or 2 establishments, the NLC reserves the right to select from additional Tier 3 and 4 establishments that meet or exceed the minimum point requirement.
On top of all this, as per their supply deal with the provincial government, Canopy Growth is guaranteed at least four retail locations in the province. One will be for its production facility (location TBD but probably the northeast Avalon). The other three locations have yet to be decided, but according to the RFP they “could include locations where other retailers have been granted a license to retail cannabis.” In other words, they can rightfully usurp a retail license from up to three people that the NLC think have tapped a profitable market.