Legalizing Cannabis: Contrasting New Brunswick and Nova Scotia

Kyle Moore/Courier Mark Barbour, manager of communications and public relations for ANBL, left, and President and CEO of ANBL, Brian Harriman at the tour of the Cannabis NB store in Saint John in June.

Editor’s note ~ Our intrepid reporter Kyle Moore took on the daunting task of creating The Saint Croix Courier’s portion of a family of publication’s wide look at the legalization of cannabis across NB and NS. Here, he contrasts how the retail outlets will function in the two provinces.

With October 17, 2018, the date of legalization for adult use marijuana across the country fast approaching in our Maritime communities, the thought of local dispensaries opening in those communities is one that is being met with opinion across the pro/con spectrum.

Some are in support of the this new wave of legislature, some against – but one thing that’s certain is the more information that becomes available, the more the general populous will be able to develop educated and fact-based opinions on the matter.

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And new information seems to be pouring in more rapidly each day as we inch closer to provincial legalization. It’s becoming more difficult to grasp the concepts of how these new dispensaries will function in our communities and the different rules and regulations which will be instilled for these new businesses.

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In New Brunswick, Cannabis NB will be a subsidiary of NB Liquor, and the only outlets that will sell adult use recreational cannabis. Even though the two different retailers will be overseen by the same government regulated crown corporation there will be significant differences between the two both in their business models and their cosmetic appearance.

By contrast, Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC) will have only one stand alone cannabis retailer throughout the province, and will house the rest of their cannabis sales directly in pre-existing NSLC retailers in specific sections of each store.

NSLC will update its existing infrastructure and thus will incorporate the new cannabis additions into the already modern interior of the pre-existing NSLC retailers.

One of the most drastic differences between the Cannabis NB dispensaries and Alcool New Brunswick Liquor (ANBL) retail stores will be their business objectives.

“First and foremost, the business model has been designed to keep these controlled substances out of the hands of New Brunswick’s youth, and off the black market,” said Senior Communications and Public Relations Advisor for ANBL, Mark Barbour.

“Cannabis NB’s priority and focus has never been about revenue.”

Currently, there are 20 planned Cannabis NB retail locations around NB.

“Unlike ANBL retail stores, Cannabis NB will also offer an online purchase option with home delivery as an option for those who do not have a store in their villages, towns, or cities,” said Barbour, adding he believes this will help introduce wary NB locals to cannabis in a way that promotes safety and privacy.

NSLC outlets will also offer an online delivery option for their customers.

“We are going to be offering next day delivery on all of our products for customers within the province,” said NSLC spokesperson, Beverley Ware, adding this option will be added primarily to make things more convenient for customers who don’t have an NSLC/cannabis retail store in their area.

In both the case of NSLC and Cannabis NB, government issued ID must be presented to prove that the customer is over the age of 19.

NSLC originally had plans for eight of their retail stores to be fitted with cannabis extensions but recently announced plans to add three more for a total of 11 cooperative alcohol and cannabis stores, and one stand-alone cannabis store.

Cannabis NB stores are going to be run by a subsidiary of the crown corporation in charge of ANBL, but there will be a select number of significant differences between the two retailers. For instance, upon arrival at a Cannabis NB retailer, you will be asked to present government issued identification to a member of staff before proceeding into the waiting and reception area inside the door.

If the person is under the age of 19, they will not be allowed onto the store’s premises. This is opposed to the ANBL business model where minors are able to enter the stores providing they’re accompanied by their legal guardians.

Furthermore, unlike ANBL retail stores, customers of Cannabis NB will be treated to a one-on-one shopping experience with a member of the Cannabis NB retail team who will assist customers with specific products, and provide education and important information about the products.

A significant cosmetic change that customers can expect to see is how they are able to interact with the merchandise at Cannabis NB stores.

“There will be nosing jars that will permit one to see, and smell the different product as part of the educational experience,” said Barbour. “But products are going to be secured and stored behind the counter.”

This will come in stark contrast with ANBL stores where customers are able to handle the merchandise freely and inspect a variety of products.

NSLC believes adding the cannabis section to their stores will allow them to directly apply the knowledge and experience they have in retailing controlled substances to their new cannabis products.

“We already have the infrastructure and (business) model in place,” said Ware. “We have the experience in controlled substances and we think it will help make the transition much smoother.”

Customers who are guardians of minors will not be permitted to be accompanied by said minor into the store if they will be purchasing cannabis products. Customers will also be able to purchase both alcohol and cannabis at the same time, but they must purchase the alcohol first before entering the cannabis section of the outlet.

“Educating and informing our customers on cannabis and the consequences  that can arise from mixing alcohol with cannabis will be our first priority,” said Ware, adding informative posters will be displayed throughout the stores as well as both alcohol and cannabis product specialists who will educate customers. NSLC will not have nosing jars to smell the cannabis products in any of the cannabis sections, but will have them at the stand alone Clyde Street store in Halifax.

Instead they will have detailed information available about each product so customers have a detailed idea about the attributes (smell, taste, and what kind of high it causes) each variety will possess. The stores making the cannabis addition will construct the additions using frosted glass to isolate the area from the rest of the store but still provide a welcoming entrance for customers looking for cannabis products.

Both the Cannabis NB and NSLC’s cannabis retail space will be created with a multitude of modern and “best in class practices.” From a sleek interior, to modern display fixtures, and IPads set up to help customers find specific products, the spaces will look more like a high-end jewelry, or electronic stores rather than what most people would assume a marijuana retailer looks like.

“We believe the modern look will help encourage people to check out the stores, and take the steps to learning more about adult use cannabis,” said Barbour.

Ware added in NSLC stores, they want customers to view cannabis in the stores the same as any NSLC product and want to develop a comfortable and modern retail area that represents that.

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