Manitoba to pause issuing controlled access retail cannabis licences 

| David Brown

The Manitoba government says it will be placing a temporary freeze on any new licences that allow convenience stores to sell cannabis.

Following the tabling of legislation that proposes to repeal the province’s ban on growing cannabis at home, Glen Simard, the Minister responsible for the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation, told media that the province will be pausing the issuance of new licences for “controlled access” cannabis stores in the province for at least six months.

A representative for Simard’s office confirms that the government is seeking to pause the issuance of new licences while it studies the issue further. 

Such controlled access licences for retail cannabis stores allow for cannabis to be sold in convenience stores and gas stations that carry other non-cannabis products. According to provincial rules, businesses holding a controlled-access licence may allow young persons to enter the store, but cannabis must not be visible or accessible.

The province currently lists 205 cannabis stores licensed in the province, with 122 of them in Winnipeg. Eleven of these stores are “controlled access” stores. 

Some cannabis retailers in the province have in the past expressed concern about such licences. Melanie Bekevich, the owner of Mistik Cannabis in Winnipeg, and a member of the Retail Cannabis Council of Manitoba (RCCMB), tells StratCann the organization had met with the Manitoba government to express their concerns with how these licences are being issued. 

“The RCCMB is pleased that the Minister has been responsive to the industry’s calls for a review on the controlled access licence category,” says Bekevich. “This category was intended to provide access to legal cannabis for rural and remote communities, but we’re seeing most of these licences in Winnipeg and Brandon. A review of the category could ensure controlled access licensing is being used in the spirit of its original intent. The Minister will need to find a balance between limiting exposure of minors to cannabis sales and access for rural remote communities.”

Raj Grover, the CEO of High Tide Cannabis, which operates three Canna Cabana cannabis stores in the province, says he hopes the review provides better guidelines for these types of licences. 

“We applaud Manitoba’s new NDP government for confirming today that it will place a six-month moratorium on new controlled access cannabis retail licences,” says Grover. “These licences were intended to provide access to legal cannabis in rural communities without an established legal retail cannabis store; however, many of the controlled access licences were granted to convenience and grocery stores within downtown Winnipeg. We hope that the six month review will help establish important guardrails to ensure that these licences are limited to under serviced communities only, as was originally intended.”