The companies awarded marijuana retail permits in Nipawin and Melfort say they are going ahead with plans to open shops in the communities soon.
The Saskatchewan government announced the winners of the retail permit lottery earlier this month, and more than 50 permits were awarded in communities across the province. British Columbia-based internal medicine specialist and entrepreneur Dr. Jean Lim won permits to operate a marijuana retail outlet in Nipawin, along with stores in the communities of Rosetown and Outlook. This is Lim’s first foray into the marijuana retail market, and he's currently looking at properties in Melfort and plans to visit the community in the coming days. He said he plans to hire a manager, two or three full-time staff members, and three or four part-time staff members to run the business in Melfort.
“I think there’s a lot of stigma behind marijuana use in general that I don’t think is necessarily valid,” Lim told northeastNOW. “My plans are to work with each community … I’m happy to meet with as many residents as possible. I’m all ears.”
The investment arm of the Battleford Agency Tribal Chiefs partnered with GTec Holdings, which produces and markets cannabis, to take on the retail permit in Nipawin. Neil Sasakamoose, BATC executive director, said there have been concerns from their members around legalization, and members were adamant that cannabis retailers not be located on reserve land.
The BATC and GTec applied for 32 retail permits across the province before securing the permit for Nipawin.
“There’s definitely people from the First Nations side that do not agree with legalizing cannabis,” Sasakamoose said. “But, they looked at the opportunity and they’re off the reserve, they are in cities and in urban centres, so we should get into it.”
Sasakamoose said he hopes regulation of the marijuana market will lead to less criminal activity in communities across Saskatchewan. He said the group has been working with town administrators in Nipawin to find a suitable location, and plan to use profits from the endeavour for youth, housing, and training programs.
“We’re not a privately-owned shareholder," Sasakamoose said. "We’re just trying to create some revenue for some of the programs on reserve."
Government regulations require each retailer selected for a permit be operational within 12 months of marijuana legalization in Canada. The province said retailers must operate standalone stores and can only sell cannabis and related products as approved by the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority. Alcohol will not be sold at the retail outlets
The permit holders will, naturally, not be allowed to begin selling until after legalization occurs. The federal government announced this week that marijuana will be legal in Canada October 17.
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