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This article was published 23/7/2018 (455 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Manitoba government is putting out an initial call for more legal cannabis retailers — even though the four winners of its first retail marijuana request for proposal haven't even opened their stores yet.
In a "request for pre-qualifications" document posted online Monday, the province said it wants to evaluate potential retailers who could open more cannabis stores, should the province need them.
Aspiring cannabis retailers have until Aug. 21 to apply to join the list of pre-qualified candidates, which is scheduled for completion Oct. 1 and will be valid for one year, with the possibility of an additional two-year extension.
The list of pre-qualified candidates "will allow Manitoba to expedite the licensing process for a potential cannabis retailer if a community is identified as being under-serviced and is prepared to entertain the operation of a cannabis store within the municipality," the document says.
"We feel we're on track here, we're working with the four retailers that we initially approved, and now we're gathering in more retailers," Growth, Enterprise and Trade Minister Blaine Pedersen said in an interview.
The province is anticipating some rural areas of Manitoba might be underserved in terms of access to legal cannabis stores at the outset of legalization, Pedersen said.
"When the original (RFP for cannabis retailers) came out, there were some who felt they weren't able to qualify on the first round... This is going to open it up to a lot more," he said. "We'll make sure that we've got that access to the market, right across the province."
Within two years of legalization, Pedersen said, the provincial government aims to have legal cannabis stores within a 30-minute drive for 90 per cent of Manitoba's population. The four initial retailers are also planning to operate online stores to sell cannabis by mail.
If more cannabis stores are needed in Manitoba, store operators on the pre-qualified list "will be selected through a lottery process based on geographic preference," according to the RFPQ document. Potential retailers would still need to formally sign an agreement with the province and apply for a cannabis store licence from the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba.
Applicants will have to show they have enough capital to open and operate a cannabis store, including access to $300,000 cash and the ability to obtain a letter of credit worth $50,000. Respondents must also show they have experience in retail operations and management.
Manitoba's original RFP for cannabis retailers was issued in November 2017, and received more than 100 applications. The four winning companies were announced in February, and are currently working on stores that will open Oct. 17, the date federal legalization of non-medical cannabis comes into effect.
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Solomon Israel is the full-time cannabis reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press and its national cannabis news website, TheLeafNews.com. He covers the social, legal, medical and scientific aspects of marijuana legalization in Manitoba and the rest of Canada.