The long-pending plan to sell off New Brunswick’s cannabis retail chain, Cannabis NB, will be a decision for the next government, a representative with the province’s Finance Treasury Board has confirmed with StratCann.
Although the current New Brunswick government had originally announced their intentions to sell off the provincial cannabis store to a private retailer was first announced late last year, the decision had been delayed several times due to COVID-19.
With an election in the province now scheduled for September 14, the decision will be made by the next government. Premier Higg’s told the Telegraph-Journal last week.
“If we’re back, or whoever is back, those findings will be presented and a recommendation made of what to do next – whether to sell it or keep it based on some very solid evaluation of our options,” premier Higgs was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, New Brunswick Liberal Party leader Kevin Vickers says if he forms government following the election, he will keep Cannabis NB.
“We’re seeing a trending upwards of profits. I am told by sources that those profits will rise exponentially in the next little while,” Vickers said.
Finance Minister Ernie Steeves said last November that part of the reason for the potential move to privatize was because the province was supposedly losing money because it had not yet recouped their initial startup costs. However, since that time Cannabis NB has shown a profit and is on track to continue to do so.
“This was the best way to stop losing money at this point,” Steeves said at the time. “We are responsible for the taxpayers’ money, and we have to be prudent with it.”
“This is part of our efforts to energize the private sector, get our financial house in order and maximize the benefits for taxpayers and the government,” the minister said in a government press release. “After a careful and thorough review of the current business model for the sale of recreational cannabis and an analysis of alternative options, we came to the conclusion that the best approach for New Brunswick taxpayers and government is to turn to the private sector.”
Those companies interested in taking over the twenty retail locations had until January 10 to submit proposals. The province received proposals from Canopy Growth, Fire & Flower, Green Stop Cannabis, Kiaro Brands, Loblaw Companies, New Brunswick Association of Cannabis Distributors, and YSS Corp.
On November 14 of last year, the New Brunswick Government issued a request for proposals (RFP) for a “single private operator” to take over the operation, distribution and sales of recreational cannabis in New Brunswick. A week after that, the province introduced amendments to their provincial regulations to allow the potential change from the current provincially-owned model.
Earlier this year the province had said a decision might come by this summer, but this has now changed due to the election.
“Like many activities, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on the RFP evaluation work over the past few weeks,” Vicky Deschênes, Senior Managing Director, Communications for the Government of New Brunswick told Stratcann earlier this year. “That being said, it is still possible that a decision will be made by the end of the summer.”
One New Brunswicker earlier this year started a petition calling for the proposed sale to be scrapped.
Shaylynn Hayes created her “Don’t Sell Cannabis NB” petition earlier this month to express her frustration at the province’s announcement last year to look at selling off the public stores to a single, private company. Hayes, a writer and political enthusiast, manages her own regional media site for culture and news, The Maritime Anchor. She says she created the petition to draw attention to the proposed sale of the public asset, and express her own opposition.
“As a political person interested in the development of New Brunswick, I’d rather not let public assets be sold to the highest bidder”, Hayes told StratCann. “While they would still provide jobs (and taxes), that’s not enough. Cannabis NB should be kept under the tax-payer’s (government) control. If there is a conversation to be had about privatization, and in the future changing Cannabis NB, I am not opposed, but selling a legal monopoly is not the way forward.”