Retail cannabis could spark local businesses, Nunavut MLAs say

Territory adds second online supplier, works on licensed in-person sales

The range of products available to Nunavut consumers at the Tweed.com online cannabis store has expanded. Also, the Government of Nunavut has added a second supplier, Agmedica Bioscience Inc. of Chatham, Ont. The GN will announce later when Agmedica’s products will be available online. (Screenshot)

By Jim Bell

In-person retail cannabis sales could become an economic development opportunity for small community-based businesses, Nunavut MLAs said during committee of the whole discussions last week in the Nunavut legislature.

“I like to think it is an economic development activity the communities could take a look at,” Finance Minister George Hickes said on Friday, March 8, in response to remarks made by Arviat North–Whale Cove MLA John Main.

Main also asked whether the Department of Economic Development and Transportation is willing to help small business people, rather than big players like North West Co. and Arctic Co-ops Ltd., get into retail cannabis sales.

“When you look outside of Northern and Co-op, there is probably interest in this area, but if we’re going to promote economic activity, it would be nice to support small business,” Main said.

Hickes responded by saying those are the kinds of questions his staff are trying to answer through their regulatory development work.

Nunavut’s Cannabis Act, passed in June 2018, allows the territorial government to issue licences to private businesses for in-person over-the-counter retail sales.

But the Government of Nunavut is still working on regulations to guide such a licensing system. They will consult with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. during that process and were planning to send a letter about it to NTI, Hickes said.

In response to a question from Rankin Inlet North–Chesterfield Inlet MLA Cathy Towtongie, Hickes said it’s hard to predict when that work will be done.

“Those regulations are being worked on right now. I don’t have a firm timeline. We made sure that within the legislation that we allowed it. So we’re working on the regulations,” Hickes said.

And he also said the GN is working with the federal government on the sales of cannabis edibles and consumables.

That would likely include products like cannabis gummy bears and brownies. The federal government has yet to issue regulations for such products over fears that children could get sick if they eat them by mistake.

Hampered by a national shortage of legally produced recreational cannabis, Nunavut’s first legal online retailer, Tweed.com, owned by Canopy Growth Corp. of Smith’s Falls, Ont., had sold 4.2 kilograms of cannabis between Oct. 17, 2018 and Dec. 31, 2018, the GN said last January.

That represented 1,147 online orders, worth only about $17,000 in sales revenues.

This suggests many Nunavut consumers are still purchasing cannabis through the illegal black market. On social media, many have complained about the limited options available during the early post-legalization period.

On that point, Hickes suggested that could change after retail store sales start up in Nunavut.

“I think, in my personal opinion, the sooner we get the retail sales available, that is what is going to start making an impact on the black market sales. There is some desire to get that done sooner rather than later,” Hickes said.

Also the range of products available at Tweed.com has expanded since last December, when only four or five products were available.

But now Nunavut online cannabis consumers can order at least 24 products, including whole-flower cannabis, oils, capsules and pre-rolled joints.

The Nunavut Liquor and Cannabis Commission has also signed up with a second supplier, Agmedica Bioscience Inc. of Chatham, Ont.

Until now, Agmedica has specialized in medical cannabis, but is now branching out into the recreational market, and recently signed a deal with the Ontario Cannabis Store.

The company also says they now have supply agreements with seven provinces and territories.

But Agmedica products are not yet available online to Nunavut-based customers.

“Nunavummiut will be informed once AgMedica’s online sales are up and running,” a GN spokesperson told Nunatsiaq News.

And the GN continues to seek more suppliers.

“The NULC is also working on securing additional suppliers through its request for expressions of interest, with the intention of continuing to expand sale offerings and services,” the spokesperson said.

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(8) Comments:

  1. Posted by iToke on

    This is good news. Access to edible CBD products would be great.

  2. Posted by Tommy on

    I still get surprised as to how the #&%%! they can break and enter into premises. Drug dealers still have the market because GN doesn’t know how to get into it.

  3. Posted by tony on

    Pricing has to be looked at. The oil (Sunset) is $250 in Nunavut yet is $175 in Ontario – same day.

    People can carry sprays and capsules from Ottawa to Iqaluit in their pockets, and with retail stores opening in Ottawa purchasing will be very straightforward.

    Assume a spray lasts a month – really depends on application: arthritis, chronic pain, insomnia, digestion…- then in 12 months that is an extra $900.

    1 – I don’t understand how the price is set between Ontario and Nunavut
    2 – at that premium smugglers of legal pot will sprout up and do a good business. For those smuggling illegal product the price differential will provide attractive options for desperate clients
    3 – brick and mortar shops might lower the price a bit, but when competition is non-existent and suppliers to storefronts also sell on line, price pressure simply won’t exist

    The govt has to examine how to monitor and regulate prices so that gouging doesn’t occur.

    • Posted by Gobble Gobble on

      Come on, Tony. It’s obviously because it costs them $75 to ship the 6.5g of oil here.

  4. Posted by The Old Trapper on

    I assume that most provinces try to get deals with all the major suppliers (hello GN anyone home?). I also assume that most provinces will only sell within their own province. The province adds their markup and/or taxes, therefore the more they sell the more revenue they get to keep.

    If there any legal reason a province or territory couldn’t sell to residents of other provinces? The GN could sell to all of Canada by taking a lower mark-up or taxes, but make up for it in volume.

    • Posted by iToke on

      I’m not sure what you are saying Old Trapper? The GN could become a distributor to the ROC? Wouldn’t the greens need to be grown here to make this work? Otherwise we’d just be creating a chain of resellers? Maybe I misunderstand your point. Curious what you’re getting at?

      • Posted by The Old Trapper on

        Provincial governments are claiming a monopoly over any cannabis sold within their jurisdiction, and are setting retail prices accordingly.

        My point is that provinces may not be able to legally justify such a monopoly. This would allow GN to sell to ROC if they had the will to do so. After all none of the provinces really want to sell cannabis – they just want to get the tax revenue.

        This may be a cynical view, but I think that it is more true than not. Also I don’t see any other province trying to sell out of province, but I do think the GN might be able to get away with it as a means of raising additional revenue.

        At the very least the GN should sell distribution licenses to individuals in each community, provided they buy from the GN approved site.

  5. Posted by King djoser on

    1-crappy quality of the weed only begginers smoke and buy.
    2-the price of the crap weed is not worth it compared to street prices.
    3-street weed is usually all the same price while that crap weed is sold at different rip off prices for the same amount.

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