Article by David Brown, Lift News
Darrell Dexter was the Nova Scotia Premier from 2009-2013, and is now the vice-chair at Global Public Affairs, Canada’s largest privately held government relations firm. As vice-chair, Dexter will be taking on the firm’s cannabis industry clients, offering advice on navigating new rules as they roll out.
Lift spoke with Dexter recently on his thoughts on how the provinces may be managing the legalization ticket over the next year or so, and what distribution and retail options will be available to them. The former NDP Premier says he sees online sales playing a key role in allowing provinces to implement sales in a timely manner, especially in more remote, rural areas, and predicts a ‘patchwork’ of regulations that are best suited to each region’s own cultural differences.
Dexter will also be speaking at the Lift Expo in Toronto this weekend as part of our Retail Cannabis Panel, featuring Andrea Dobbs of the Village Dispensary, Abdullah Al-Kazaz, Licensed pharmacist at Cadence Apothecary, Ivan-Ross Vrana, industry consultant and lobbyist, and will be moderated by Jenna Valleriani.
What are some concerns that provinces may have in terms of retail settings?
“I don’t see it so much as concerns as options, really. From a public policy perspective, the federal government has made a decision with respect to the question of legalization and it’s going to be implemented, and so there are a number of different options that the provinces will have. You know the kind of off the top of my head assessment is that you’ll likely see a patchwork of different kinds of approaches across the country. I think over time what will happen is a kind of best practices will emerge, so that way the approaches will, over time, likely start to resemble each other as they do in other sectors today. But initially I think there will be some differences.”
What about Nova Scotia, specifically? What’s going on there?
“Right now the province is in the middle of an election campaign so they’re avoiding saying exactly what they’re going to do, they don’t want it to become an issue during the campaign. But right now I think it’s officially under study and they are looking at it with the other Atlantic provinces to try and coordinate what they’re doing here in the region. My gut is that in the end I think we’ll probably see some combination: they may choose to use the infrastructure they already have, through the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission, so that’s a possibility, but I think it’s probably going to have to include some online component with whatever model they chose.”
“In our modern society in which we live, consumers are already comfortable with that model, and they look for all kinds of purchasing already. I’m an age group where that was not a usual kind of approach, but I shop online and I think most people do now, so I would be very surprised if some component of some part of the profile of distribution is not likely to contain some online component.”
What are the retail models provinces are looking at? Online sales, pharmacies and dispensaries.
“In terms of whether they’re going to have private dispensary style locations, I think that some of the provinces will look very closely at that when it comes to the question of being able to dispense for medical purposes, that’s my bet.
“In a province like Nova Scotia, the way the alcohol distribution happens now, is they have government locations and in smaller communities where people will have to travel in the winter, they put in some small, private locations.
“I think the problem for the argument for that is they’ll simply want to have more security. This is the stated goal of this current legislation and I think ultimately the distribution models will need to be consistent with the notion of legalization, not normalization. So they’re going to want distribution profiles that protect that kind of view of how this is going to be rolled out.”