Mayor happy successful cannabis retailers from Saskatchewan

Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne addresses city council during a meeting on Monday, Aug. 28. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Remarking that at least Prince Albert didn’t get stuck with out-of-province retailers, Dionne said he would have preferred if businesses owned a lease prior to bidding.

Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne is looking on the bright side when it comes to the province’s cannabis retail license lottery.

The June 1 lottery revealed that both of Prince Albert’s allotted retail permits would go towards business owners from Saskatoon.

However, Dionne, who was in Halifax for the 2018 Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference when the results were announced, said things could have been a lot worse.

“Would I have liked to have seen them go to P.A.? Absolutely, but I’m happy with the process.” Dionne said.

“At least our two went to Saskatoon. I was worried that we were going to get a B.C. company or a Quebec company or a U.S. company or an Ontario company that was just here to take the money and take it out of our province. At least I can say our two vendors will be keeping the money in the province of Saskatchewan and I’m proud of that fact.”

Applicants were required to put down a non-refundable $1,000 fee just to apply for the lottery. Successful candidates would then have to pay another $3,000 fee to receive their license.

Dionne said it’s true the entire legalization process could have been smoother, but added that for the most part, he’s happy with it. His biggest concerns are the lack of a set legalization date from the federal government, and that out of province businesses were allowed to bid for Saskatchewan cannabis permits.

The provincial government has defended the process, saying banning those businesses would be illegal under the country’s free trade agreement. However, Dionne said there are ways to work around the agreement, and he wished they would have been in place.

“We did it the best way we thought it would work,” he said. “Would we do it differently next time? I probably would have a little bit more say about who should have the right to bid. I have no issue (with) bids from any other province, as long as we got the right to bid on theirs.”

Some provinces, like Ontario, are selling cannabis through their liquor board stores, which prevented out-of-province businesses from applying for permits. Other provinces like Alberta are going for a combination between the liquor board stores and private sales.

Dionne said he would have preferred Alberta’s approach, which required applicants to have a signed lease or certificate of title to make a bid.

“The rules should have been more similar, I think, across the country, certainly some of the basic ones, and I believe that the provinces that were closed shouldn’t have had the right to bid in our province,” he explained. “Free trade is free trade. Free trade is not, well, you’re open we’ll bid. We’re closed, you can’t bid. That’s not free trade, so I would have done it a little different, but I’m happy the way it went, especially our community.”

Despite his displeasure with the process, Dionne said he’s focusing more on the social and legal ramifications of legalization, with no plans to revisit the application process.