Cannabis will only be sold at nine Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation stores this July— four of which are in the Halifax region.
The NSLC, which will be the province’s sole distributor of recreational cannabis, announced its rollout plan on Monday.
The two Halifax locations include the former Clyde Street liquor store, which will reopen to sell cannabis exclusively, and 3601 Joseph Howe Drive in Fairview. NSLC stores on Portland Street in Dartmouth and Sackville Drive in Lower Sackville round out the Halifax Regional Municipality locations.
But a map of the proposed stores leaves some gaps in retail coverage.
“I don’t believe that we would ever be able to provide a retail model in every community,” said Justice Minister Mark Furey at a news conference.
He said that consumers who don’t have regional access can order it online from the NSLC, or provide their own by growing no more than four plants.
“The numbers when you compare us, per capita, to other provinces aren’t unreasonable, although visually, one would say there are gaps,” said Furey.
The mentioned stores will all need to be renovated, but they were selected because of existing infrastructure, space and customer traffic. Six of the stores were chosen because they already have a separate area in place for wine bottling.
A request for proposals to make the necessary alterations will be issued later Tuesday.
‘The black market will continue to exist’
Furey said the province wants to stamp out the black market, but he doesn’t see it disappearing.
“The black market will continue to exist,” he said. “There’s no switch that we’re going to flip and transition to the legal recreational market. This is going to take time.”
To Karla MacFarlane, the interim leader of the PC party, the retail gaps are a problem.
“Obviously, this is a great indication that we are going to see the fostering of the black market continue,” MacFarlane told reporters. “As I stated before, I think this all comes down to the dollar and that’s what the disappointment is here today.”
Neither the province nor the NSLC expect to make any money off the recreational market right away.
“We do not see this as a profit generating business for the first few years,” said NSLC CEO Bret Mitchell.
“Ultimately, what’s going to matter is the cost of acquisition of the actual product itself and that will determine if there is going to be any. Our sense today, with what we know, there won’t be any profit to start.”
The NSLC is currently looking for information from suppliers about when, how much and what sort of products can be supplied. Mitchell said they have already heard from suppliers across the country in response to last week’s tender.
Mitchell said the price of cannabis on the black market is dropping, as legalization nears. He added the NSLC believes they will need to sell product below $10 a gram to be competitive.
Furey said there have been no discussions of the province subsidizing the price of cannabis at this time.