New Brunswick’s Cannabis Stores To Be Run by Provincial Liquor Board

Photo of Saint John, New Brunswick, from a park near the Reversing Falls Bridge. An empty wooden bench is in Foreground.

New Brunswick is handing over full control of cannabis distribution to its liquor board, following a similar model as Ontario.

The province announced on Wednesday that a subsidiary of NB Liquor would oversee the stand-alone retail storefronts, which will reportedly be in place in time for next July’s legalization.

There will be 20 stores in 15 communities, along with an online retailer.

Overall, there will be 20 stores in 15 communities, along with an online retailer. CBC reports that details for online sales have yet to be worked out, but possible options include online ordering with in-store pickup and a delivery service run by trained staff who check ID upon arrival.

The retail spaces will be required to follow strict guidelines, which stipulate staid exteriors with no window displays or advertising, carding customers before they enter the stores, keeping products under glass, and being located at least 300 metres away from schools.

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The eastern province has yet to announce legal age of purchase or the price point for recreational marijuana. Global News reports that a legislative committee recently suggested 19 as the minimum age of purchase, which is the same as liquor and tobacco in the province.

Guidelines stipulate stores must have staid exteriors with no window displays or advertising.

In September, New Brunswick announced it was launching a Crown corporation to oversee the sales of recreational cannabis. It has already signed multi-million-dollar agreements with licensed producers Organigram in Moncton and Canopy Growth of Smith Falls, Ont. as its official suppliers. CBC reports that combined, they will sell at least nine million grams a year to NB alone.

At a news conference on Wednesday, New Brunswick’s finance minister Cathy Rogers said that while consulting with other regions like Colorado and Washington, where recreational marijuana is legal, New Brunswick officials were advised to give the province control over sales as a starting point.

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“Their advice was to start with tight government oversight in the beginning,” she said. “We want to ensure that cannabis stays out of the hands of youth and criminals.”

NB Liquor chief executive officer Brian Harriman said the stores should be able to deter illegal dealers and in turn, keep the product out of the hands of minors.

‘With a regulated controlled market, the size of the illicit market is going to shrink.’
Brian Harriman, NB Liquor chief executive officer

“With a regulated controlled market, the size of the illicit market is going to shrink,” said Harriman. “It’ll never be airtight but we think we can absolutely tighten it up.”

Jaime Agnew, president of Local 963 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents 500 NB Liquor employees, told the CBC he supports the decision since it will spike the number of unionized jobs: “I think the new workers of Cannabis New Brunswick, or whatever it’s going to be called, will enjoy our contract and will enjoy the benefits of getting out of the illegal trade and getting into the legal trade, and having a good-paying job with good benefits and all the things that come with being unionized.”

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Like Ontario’s model, New Brunswick’s non-medicinal dispensaries will still be considered illegal come July and subject to enforcement by local police.

So far, Ontario and New Brunswick are the only provinces that have outlined plans for sales of recreational marijuana. NB Liquor’s request for proposals calls for retail stores to be “substantially complete” one month before legalization on July 1.