In another fun twist to the burgeoning Canadian cannabis industry, a grocery store chain applied for nearly half of the retail cannabis licenses in the province of Newfoundland.
Despite a local poll that determined Newfoundlanders think existing retail locations are the last place they want cannabis sold, Canada’s largest grocery store company, Loblaw Companies, is attempting to land 10 of the 24 retail cannabis licenses in Newfoundland just in time for their hundredth birthday in 2019.
While Loblaw Companies owns numerous different Canadian grocery stores, they’re going with their flagship and namesake chain for the permitting process. Loblaw is instantly among the largest companies in the world dipping their toes into the cannabis game. Annual revenues topped $45 billion in 2015, and they employ a workforce of almost 90,000 union employees.
Loblaw also announced last week it has drawn up battle plans for the forthcoming war against Amazon in Canada, after the online retailer purchased Whole Foods last August. The Financial Post reported they plan to “blanket the country” with e-commerce after seeing positive traction with its early efforts.
This could mean that Loblaw could end up delivering cannabis around Canada, though a representative told the Financial Post this was not currently a part of Loblaw’s plan.
Newfoundland has a more permissive cannabis market compared to other Canadian provinces, including the provision that private retailers can sell cannabis — unlike in Quebec, where the government will run the cannabis storefronts. It’s also very important to note Newfoundland has been on board with legalization since day one, literally. The same day the Canadian federal government made sure their pot intentions were known last summer, Newfoundland announced its intention to work collaboratively with the federal, provincial and territorial governments in order to introduce cannabis legislation and regulations specific to the province. The end results were based on a survey of Newfoundlanders and gave retail operators a better shot than in much of rest of the country.
In the survey, which was conducted online and through stakeholder meetings, Newfoundlanders got to vote on where they thought cannabis should actually be sold. The options included using an existing government entity, creating a new government entity to sell, using online retailers, permitting new brick-and-mortar dispensaries, allowing for Costco-esque weed clubs and allowing existing retail establishments like Loblaw to sell cannabis. Dispensaries proved to be the most popular option, followed by the online solution. However, permitting existing retailers to sell polled the worst with locals by a considerable amount. Over three times as many people both wanted cannabis to be sold in dispensaries or wanted it sold by the government. Dispensaries were the top answer in every age category.
So despite Loblaw and locations like it being the last place where the folks of the province want to see cannabis being sold, it appears Newfoundland is going to give them a chance. Many of the other applicants applying to sell cannabis there are the traditional cannabis-only model that residents seem to be looking for.
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