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Northwest Territories Opens Retail to Private Business

After waiting and watching other provinces stumble into the private retail cannabis market, the Northwest Territories (NWT) has decided to test the waters and late last month called for proposals for a cannabis store in Yellowknife.

The province is starting small with a single store in the capital city. If things go well, Deneen Everett, executive director of Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce, told CBC that the number of stores may increase.

On May 29, the province put out a call for proposals to five pre-qualified vendors. Four are located in Yellowknife and the other is Alberta-based Canna Cabana. The request expires on July 30, and whoever wins the 5-year contract will have the opportunity to open in Yellowknife, but they still have to play by the rules, such as no minors allowed, no drive-thru, and stores must be closed while polls are open on municipal, territorial, and federal voting days.

Like many provinces, private retailers in NWT still have to purchase cannabis through the Northwest Territories Liquor and Cannabis Commission, which acts as the regulator and distributor. The government is also keeping control of the price of cannabis, mandating that the retailer’s markup can be no more than 25% from the wholesale price, not including GST.

Being so remote, and now with COVID-19, NWT has been having trouble with cannabis shortages, so the proposal warns that just because a company may win the contract, it is not a guarantee that their store will be successful. According to Everett, they are going to give it a try anyway.

“There’s room for growth,” she told CBC. “We just need to make sure that we’re opening it up to private businesses through a fair and transparent process, and letting the market decide.”