LEWISPORTE, N.L. – Legal cannabis retail is coming to central, but not to Lewisporte or Twillingate.
Lewisporte Mayor Betty Clarke related that her council discussed it and were open to helping business owners obtain the required permits to apply to become cannabis retailers. “We decided that as long as they met all the regulations,” Clarke said, “we would support it if it came here.”
However to the best of her knowledge, none did. With the strict criteria the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corp.’s (NLC) application required business owners to complete, Clarke assumed they would have had to come to the town first for the permits.
Clarke said she is not disappointed that no one from her town submitted an application. Lewisporte sits between the larger centres of Gander and Grand Falls-Windsor, both of which had successful cannabis retailer applications through Loblaw stores.
“We understand that not every community can be a supplier of pot,” she stated. “If nobody comes forward to apply for a licence what can we do? We’re not in the business of promoting pot.”
Rod French, chair of the Gander Chamber of Commerce, which also represents businesses in Twillingate, another town that the NLC did not receive any applications from, says his board thinks the tendering process itself was the issue.
“It was disappointing that smaller retailers didn’t have as much of an opportunity to apply or submit,” he said. “The request for proposals had criteria that made it more difficult for smaller operators to be successful in the process.”
French said that although he is happy Gander Loblaw was successful, he is disappointed the application process seemed stacked against smaller businesses.
“Loblaws is a member of the Chamber and we support all our members but we wish that smaller operators also had the opportunity,” he explained. “We think the request for proposals might have been a bit difficult for them to comply with. There were areas of the province that didn’t have any applications come in, which lent support to our theory.”
The chamber’s board has further concerns it feels have not yet been adequately addressed regarding the pot legislation.
“We don’t feel there’s been a lot of info on regulation and enforcement,” French said. “There are still a lot of questions that we as a business community feel need to be answered and I think there’s a lot of people in the general public who feel the same way. So, we’d like to see government on both levels come forward with some more info around that to put some of those questions at ease.”
The NLC is planning to re-issue the request for proposals. French is hoping smaller retailers in the area will take note of the geographic gaps the NLC was prepared to award licences in and will consider applying.