Article by Dan Lett, Winnipeg Free Press
In his struggles to come up with a regime to control the sale of recreational marijuana, Premier Brian Pallister may have found a powerful ally.
Despite a looming July 1, 2018 deadline to have a system in place, the province has been very reluctant to talk about how it would like to handle the production, distribution and sales of recreational pot. Last month, Justice Minister Heather Stefanson issued an expression of interest to find potential partners and solutions to handle all aspects of legalized marijuana.
Although it’s too early to identify all those responding to the expression of interest, there is increasing evidence to suggest Shoppers Drug Mart is one of the interested parties.
Government sources say senior representatives of Loblaw Companies Ltd., the parent of the pharmacy chain, have already been in contact with Manitoba to express a burning desire to participate in the sale of both medical and recreational pot.
This is hardly a surprising development. For the past two years, Loblaw has been working diligently to build its profile as one of Canada’s most 420-friendly corporate entities.
Loblaw has already applied to the federal government to dispense medical marijuana. The company has also donated $1 million to St. Thomas University in New Brunswick to help fund a new research chair on cannabis. And earlier this year, the company announced its employees health plan would cover up to $1,500 in medical marijuana to treat a limited list of conditions.
When you consider all those steps, it only seems to make sense that Loblaw would expand its interests to include the soon-to-be-legal recreational marijuana market. The company has certainly been dropping hints.
At Loblaw’s annual general meeting last spring, CEO Galen Weston strongly hinted recreational pot sales were also on the company’s radar. “You can never predict the future,” Weston said at that time.