New Brunswick hands liquor board control over recreational cannabis sales

It’s the second province to officially hand exclusive cannabis retail rights to its liquor board as Quebec hints it could follow suit

New Brunswick announced on Wednesday that the province’s liquor board will control sales of recreational cannabis through standalone storefronts when the market opens by next summer. It’s the second province after Ontario to bestow exclusive cannabis retail rights to its liquor board, as news reports hint Quebec could be the next to do so.

Cathy Rogers, New Brunswick’s finance minister, said at a news conference that a subsidiary of NB Liquor will set up 20 cannabis storefronts in 15 communities. The stores will have to abide by strict regulations that include having no window displays or decorations, being at least 300 metres away from schools, keeping the cannabis under glass, and requiring customers to show identification before entering.

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“We want to ensure that cannabis stays out of the hands of youth and criminals,” Rogers told reporters.

Online sales will be allowed, however the province has yet to decide the legal minimum age and retail prices.

In September, New Brunswick became the second province after Ontario to unveil its proposal to regulate recreational pot. The eastern province with 750,000 residents said it would create a new crown corporation to oversee marijuana sales. It also announced exclusive sales agreements with Organigram and Canopy Growth, two companies with licenses from Health Canada to produce and sell medical marijuana.

Ontario also plans to have cannabis sales overseen by its Liquor Control Board. Canada’s most populous province is set to open 40 storefronts by July 2018, for a total of 150 by 2020. The government has vowed to wipe out the hundreds of illicit dispensaries operating online and across the province, but hasn’t specified how this will be accomplished or how much it will cost.

“We want to ensure that cannabis stays out of the hands of youth and criminals”

Earlier this week, La Presse reported that Quebec plans to set up a subsidiary of its liquor control agency, the SAQ, to sell recreational cannabis, similar to Ontario’s approach.

While Alberta is still finalizing details for legal cannabis sales, its draft proposal would give the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission rights to oversee distribution. While Alberta’s proposal discourages cannabis sales within private alcohol stores, VICE News previously reported that Canopy Growth has been cozying up to the Alberta Liquor Store Association to help advocate for the creation of separate entrances for cannabis outlets.