Some of New Brunswick’s smaller communities could see privately-owned cannabis stores opening as early as June, with additional stores opening throughout the summer.
The provincial government, which first announced its plans for around a dozen new stores in 2021, began the vetting process for ten new private cannabis stores following a tender process that ended in October 2022.
The goal was to bring cannabis to smaller, under-served communities. Tenders were accepted for Blackville, Bouctouche, Caraquet, Chipman, Dalhousie, Grand Bay, Hampton, Saint Andrews, Saint-Quentin, and Salisbury.
A representative for Cannabis NB, the agency that oversees cannabis distribution and sales in the province, told StratCann that barring any unexpected delays, the agency hopes to see the first private stores opening in June, with additional locations opening over the summer.
The timeline still depends on several factors, such as the retailers’ ability to get their stores ready to open, including all applicable licensing, and a final review of each site to ensure they are fully compliant with provincial regulations.
“We are looking forward to expanding our offering to include private retail in New Brunswick,” Lori Stickles, CEO of Cannabis NB, said in 2022. “The goal of having private retail locations is to combat the illicit market by providing better access to safe, regulated cannabis products in underserved areas of the province.”
Cannabis NB is currently the only legal retailer in the province, with 25 locations. Most of these locations are in or near cities like Moncton, Saint John, and Fredericton. All ten new private retail locations are in towns with fewer than 10,000 residents, most with just a few thousand or less.
The move to allow new private stores came after the provincial government initially tried to do away entirely with the public retail system. After long delays, and facing public pressure, that plan was scrapped in March 2021.
The reasoning given by the new PC government was that Cannabis NB was losing money. However, since then, the crown corporation has shown increasing profits as sales increased, and has recouped initial startup costs. The public retail and distribution system had been initially put in place by the previous Liberal government.
In the agency’s most recent quarterly report in January, total sales were $21.6 million, an increase of 5 percent compared to the same period last year. Net income for the quarter was $4.8 million, 21.5 percent above the previous year’s third-quarter net income of $3.9 million.
New Brunswick has taken some relatively unique approaches to cannabis retail since opening its public-only model in 2018. In addition to being one of only two provinces with a mixed public and private retail mode (BC is the other), it is one of only three provinces (along with Ontario and BC) to have a formal farmgate retail licensing system in place. There are currently five cannabis producers in New Brunswick now licenced to allow on-site sales direct to consumers, including the recent addition of a cannabis nursery. Just in time to start your garden!
It has also operated several pop-up Cannabis NB locations, and the agency is currently holding its third annual Cannabis NB Cup, featuring products from 13 growers across Canada.
“We are very excited to launch this year’s Cannabis NB Cup competition,” said Lara Wood, Cannabis NB’s VP of Operations. “It provides a great opportunity for our partners to show off their best and connect directly with their audience, and is one of the only programs nationally to offer producers real-time, quantitative feedback from consumers who are trying these products.”
Stay tuned to StratCann for more information on Cannabis NB’s first privately owned cannabis stores and other New Brunswick cannabis news as it emerges.