Loblaw bids to take over New Brunswick cannabis sales

Canada’s largest grocer is one of eight companies that responded to a request for proposal to run the province’s cannabis retail network

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The New Brunswick government has received eight responses to a request for proposals for the operation, distribution and sales of recreational cannabis in the province.

The government issued the call for proposals in November, saying that losses incurred by Cannabis NB–the provincial cannabis corporation–persuaded the government it was time to turn to the private sector.

Finance Minister Ernie Steeves said the interest showed entrepreneurs were ready to invest in New Brunswick.

“Opening this new sector of activity to business is a tangible example of our government’s commitment to energize the private sector,” Steeves said.

Cannabis NB, a provincial Crown corporation, lost almost $12 million in its first six months, and although sales are on the rise, it continues to operate in the red.

Steeves said the previous Liberal government went with a bad business model that stuck the province with expensive leases on 20 stores across the province. He also said Health Canada regulations make it hard to be successful.

The province received proposals from:

  • Loblaw Companies Limited
  • Canopy Growth Corp.
  • Fire and Flower Inc.
  • YSS Corp.
  • New Brunswick Association of Cannabis Distributors
  • RSL NB
  • Green Stop Cannabis Ltd.
  • Kiaro Brands Inc.

The proposals will be evaluated in the coming weeks through a process the province said would be overseen by a third-party fairness monitor.

Premier Blaine Higgs said there won’t be any politics involved.

“This process is truly one of complete independence. I will not be involved in it, nor will my colleagues be involved in it. It’s going through a very rigid analysis,” he said Monday.

The exercise could result in the announcement of a private operator this spring, with transition to the new delivery model later in the year, according to a statement from the New Brunswick Finance Department on Monday.