The federal government legalized recreational cannabis on October 17th, 2018, but left it up to the provinces and territories to oversee distribution and sales.

Before developing its legislation framework for cannabis regulations, Saskatchewan’s provincial government was conducting a consultation survey from Sept. 8 to Oct. 6.

Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Justice collected feedback on how it should regulate the sale of cannabis through an online survey, the results of which were released in the end of 2017. The six professors from the universities of Regina and Saskatchewan looked at a variety of aspects that must be considered when creating such policies, including public safety, public health, economics and innovation.

The report said their suggested system would be modelled after the one used to license private alcohol retailers in the province and would shift cannabis consumers to buy legally.

According to the report, having a limited number of retailers allows for easier regulation. And because the retailers are private, they would be motivated by profit and consumer demand, ensuring that the variety of products they sell, and prices are highly competitive with the illicit market.

Other recommendations from the report include:

  • Creating a preventative public information campaign to educate Canadians.
  • Disincentivizing licensed retail outlets from selling to minors.
  • Reinvesting a percentage of cannabis taxation into policing.
  • Establishing a single point of entry for bulk cannabis, seeds, and clones.
  • Licensing and regulating the distributor through a central cannabis advisory board.
  • Granting a limited number of licenses to private retailers to minimize the illicit market.

The Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) announced it will issue 51 cannabis retail permits to private operators in as many as 32 Saskatchewan municipalities and First Nation communities.

The initial allocation of retail store permits are in municipalities and First Nations with populations of at least 2,500, with larger communities being allocated additional permits.

Cannabis retailers must operate a storefront and may also sell product online. Cannabis retail stores must be standalone, selling only cannabis, cannabis accessories and ancillary items.

A two-phase selection process was used to determine the retail operators in each community. The process involved screening for demonstrated financial capacity and the ability to track and report inventory movement through the supply chain. Phase 2 was a random selection (lottery) of qualified applicants for each opportunity. 

Both wholesaling and retailing of cannabis will be conducted by the private sector and regulated by SLGA. Cannabis retailers will be required to establish a standalone storefront operation, with the option to operate an online store.

A policy expert in Saskatchewan says the province could be dealing with a $250-million market when recreational cannabis is legalized.

Winners of the 51 pot permits were announced in June 2018, three months after the province first announced its policy framework for legalized cannabis in Saskatchewan. There were more than 1,500 applicants who applied for the 51 licences. More than two-thirds of the winners are from Saskatchewan or have operations in the province, according to the government.