The sole private liquor distributor in Yellowknife is set to sell cannabis on Oct. 17, but this week said he is yet to obtain a business licence from the city or a contract to sell from the GNWT.
“I have applied for a business licence, but the city has not been able to give me one,” said Edward Eggenberger, owner of the uptown Liquor Shop.
He said Thursday he has been told by the city that he will receive a separate business licence from the one he has for his liquor sales on the day he begins selling marijuana.
“Right now I am proceeding as if I will be (selling cannabis). On the day of, they will issue me one.”
Eggenberger’s location is expected to be the sole spot in Yellowknife for legal cannabis sales when Bill C-45 Cannabis Act comes into effect.
Richard McIntosh, communications and economic development officer with the City of Yellowknife could not confirm if Eggenberger has applied for a new business licence to sell cannabis, but said a licence can’t be issued without the product being legal.
“Currently we cannot issue a business licence to sell cannabis because it is illegal,” he said. “If cannabis becomes legal after Oct. 17, we can issue a business licence. Prior to cannabis being legal, it can’t be issued because it is an illegal activity.”
Eggenberger also said to date he has not signed a contract with the GNWT to sell the product so the expectation he will be selling the product remains “tentative.” The GNWT will not say whether or not contracts have been signed with retailers, but will make such announcements at a later date.
In April, the GNWT passed Bill 6: the Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act, which outlined details around how cannabis will be sold, including the control sale and distribution, minimum age for purchase and consumption, impaired driving, workplace safety and public smoking of the product.
While the city will not allow a business licence for cannabis before it becomes legal, the GNWT will have the product before the legalization date, according to Todd Sasaki, communications officer with the GNWT Executive and Indigenous Affairs and Finance.
“The GNWT is finalizing the initial orders and will have the products delivered to NWT stores prior to the Oct. 17 legalization date,” he said in an email.
Eggenberger confirmed this week he made some physical additions at the Liquor Shop in preparation for the drug. He has consolidated his wine and liquor sales section and separated the cannabis area with its own wheelchair-accessible entry.
“In all the other liquor stores in NWT, it is my understanding is that sales will be underneath the counter and we could have done that,” he said. “I just didn’t like the layout of current store and with empty space we had, it seemed like the perfect place.”
He doesn’t know how much volume will be sold out of the location, but he is planning to add a few more staff members who are knowledgeable in cannabis consumption for the new addition.
The Yellowknifer put a series of questions to the GNWT over the last week, which included whether cannabis would be for sale on Oct. 17 and if the Liquor Shop would be one of the locations to sell the product.
Sasaki confirmed cannabis would be available for legal sale on that date, but said “further announcements regarding retail locations will be made at a future date.”
About a month away from when the drug will be legal, the GNWT also refused to say if suppliers are confirmed. In July, CBC North reported Tilray Canada signed a supplier agreement with the GNWT, but the government has not confirmed this deal.
According to the Health Canada website, there are 116 licenced producers in Canada, with 62 of those located in Ontario, 25 in British Columbia, and seven in Alberta. There are none in the NWT.
“The GNWT is pursuing agreements with multiple suppliers and will provide an update when all agreements have been finalized,” said Sasaki.
Multiple GNWT departments are involved with overseeing the implementation of components of the legislation including Northwest Territories Liquor Commission (NTLC) which will be responsible for the sale and distribution of non-medicinal cannabis in the NWT.
The Department of Infrastructure will oversee laws related to impaired driving, the Department of Health and Social Services will be involved in educating residents about the health impacts of cannabis use and regulating cannabis smoking in public places and the Department of Justice will oversee laws and regulations related to growing or using cannabis in rental properties.
The GNWT also states departments are working on information products in both print and digital formats that will help residents stay safe and within the law. Public information sessions are also expected closer to the legalization date.
Questions regarding what makes a good cannabis supplier to the GNWT, how many options the GNWT is considering for suppliers, how long supplier contracts will last, how much of inventory will be received or what are the options, are to be answered at a later date.
“We will provide more information about supply agreements once they are finalized,” Sasaki replied by email. “Our priority is the safe and secure distribution and sale of quality-controlled cannabis in the NWT.”
The GNWT talks about diversification of our economy, why not have growers here so that we don’t have to import like we do everything else.