WINNIPEG — Manitoba is sifting through more than 100 applications from businesses that want to sell recreational marijuana when it become legal next summer.
But the government says it plans to only select up to four companies to operate retail outlets in the province.
Blaine Pedersen, Manitoba's minister of growth, enterprise and trade, says the successful applicants will know by February if they will get the green light.
He says the government's goal is to achieve a diverse and competitive retail market.
Delta 9, one of two Manitoba companies federally licensed to produce medical marijuana, has collaborated with Canopy Growth to submit its own pitch.
John Arbuthnot, CEO of Delta 9, says there is plenty of buzz about the four master licences, which could involve dozens of actual retail locations.
"Not surprised to see the excitement and fingers crossed we'll be one of the successful four," Arbuthnot said.
On Thursday, Delta 9 finalized a $23 million deal that will help the company expand its supply.
Its goal is to grow more than 17,000 kilograms of marijuana each year and sell some of it in the soon-to-be legal recreational market.
Rob Warren, a marketing and economics expert, said he believes at least one of the four businesses chosen to sell marijuana in Manitoba will be a major drugstore chain.
"They have the procedures for selling things like tobacco. They understand what to do," he said. "So for them it’s just one more product they have to add."
Warren said he also believes the government could ask for another round of retail proposals down the road.
Steven Stairs, a marijuana advocate, said he hopes the government will include some small businesses in its plan. He said some consumers might be turned off by big operators.
"If big box stores come in solely ... there will be a huge demographic of people who already use cannabis and buy it on the black market who will continue to do so."
Recreational cannabis is expected to be legalized in July. (CTV Winnipeg)
The Canadian Press