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Dissecting Manitoba's plan for retailing recreational cannabis

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The federal government brought forward legislation to legalize recreational cannabis, and the Cannabis Act is expected to come into effect on October 17, 2018. Under this federal legislation, provincial governments are responsible for developing plans, including retail models, which must be operational by the legalization date.

What is Manitoba's plan?

On November 7, 2017 the Manitoba government announced a hybrid retail model for recreational cannabis. Under Manitoba's model, the Liquor and Gaming Authority (LGA) will have an expanded mandate to regulate the purchase, storage, distribution, and retail of cannabis. Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries (MLL) will be responsible for central administration, supply chain management, and order processing. 

The private sector will operate all retail locations across the province. Permits will be issued during three phases, and the request for proposals for phase one was issued on November 7, 2017. However, the first phase was limited to only four permits province-wide, with an expectation that only large retailers could compete for the permits. 

Raising your concerns with Manitoba's retail model:

On November 27, 2017, CFIB sent a letter to Premier Brian Pallister to raise concerns with Manitoba's plan, which stated there is support for a hybrid distribution model among business owners, but smaller businesses should be able to compete fairly with larger retailers.

CFIB explained that small businesses will be placed at a competitive disadvantage if other larger businesses are already established in this new market. Furthermore, CFIB urged the provincial government to release information regarding the second and third stages of the retail model as soon as possible, to provide businesses with a fair opportunity to begin building their business plans and applications. 

CFIB's President, Dan Kelly, and Director of Provincial Affairs for Manitoba, Jonathan Alward, met with Hon. Heather Stefanson, Deputy Premier, and Hon. Blaine Pedersen the Minister of Growth, Enterprise and Trade, on December 6, 2017 to discuss several issues including the role of small businesses in this emerging industry.