The Moe government has announced it is now accepting applications for wholesale pot permits.
The province said there is no limit to these permits and also no deadline. However, there is a $5,000 wholesale permit fee which includes a $2,000 non-refundable application fee along with a $3,000 annual permit fee.
The government is requiring successful applicants to meet certain criteria centering around good character, storage and transportation security, and capacity to track and report inventory and sales.
Wholesalers can only sell to retailers and not to the general public, and they must physically operate in Saskatchewan.
“Early on we expect there to be a crunch for finding legal supply of cannabis and so we decided to give retailers all the opportunity they can,” said Gene Makowsky, minister responsible for SLGA.
As well, federally-licensed producers must also register with Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) for a fee of $2,000 if they plan to sell to retailers in this province. The fee includes $500 for the application along with a $1,500 annual permit fee.
Interest high for retail permits
On the retail side, the province said there was “very strong” interest from those wanting to sell marijuana directly to customers. More than 1,500 submissions came in before the April 10 deadline.
A total of 51 retail permits will eventually be awarded to businesses spread around 32 different communities. Saskatoon will get seven retail permits while Regina will get six.
“The evaluation process is now underway and submissions that meet the requirements will be randomly selected for permits,” said Makowsky. “We expect to announce the successful cannabis retail permittees in the coming weeks prior to federal legalization.”
The minister said the initial screening process will evaluate things like financial capacity and tracking systems. He added not having the necessary paperwork could also disqualify applicants. After that, a random lottery will occur, but Makowsky didn’t have many details surrounding that process. He did note that an independent third party will oversee the process to ensure fairness and transparency.
When asked whether applicants who have charges against them but not a conviction will be disqualified from the process, Makowsky said each applicant will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Air still hazy for opposition
The NDP isn’t surprised to see the interest in pot retail stores, but Regina Douglas Park MLA Nicole Sarauer said she is surprised in a lack of clarity and understanding from the Sask. Party on how things will progress moving forward.
Sarauer is accusing the government of dragging its feet on the matter. She said that’s hurting businesses.
“We’re looking very closely to a looming legalization date…and these businesses need to be able to get their infrastructure started; their employees hired, their spaces leased,” she said.
“This is a government that seems like they’ve been operating this file based on reefer madness when really this is an opportunity for the province economically.”
Sarauer believes many small businesses are left in the dark with a lack of details.
She also has concerns about the vetting process.
“Some of the qualifications that they are asking for — for example, financial stress test — is largely subjective.”
In terms of wholesale permits going to the private sector, Sarauer thinks they should be handled through SLGA since the infrastructure already exists.