National Access Cannabis (NAC), a company that provides access to medicinal marijuana and has established relationships with First Nations in Manitoba, is one of four organizations whose proposals to sell marijuana in Manitoba once it become legal have been conditionally accepted by the provincial government.
The other successful applicants include the consortium of Delta 9 Cannabis Inc. and Canopy Growth Corporation, which operate numerous production facilities in Canada, Tokyo Smoke and 10552763 Cannabis Corporation, a partnership of Avana Canada Inc., Fisher River Cree Nation, Chippewas of the Thames of Ontario, MediPharm Labs and U.S.-based retailer Native Roots dispensary.
NAC announced in December that it was entering into a partnership with Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (NCN) in hopes of opening a marijuana retailer on the First Nation's Mystery Lake Hotel urban reserve lands in Thompson once the drug becomes legal, which the federal government has said would take place by this summer. NAC also has partnerships with Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN), Peguis First Nation and Long Plain First Nation and OCN Chief Christian Sinclair was appointed as one of the company's directors on Jan. 26.
"With our history in successfully operating nationwide medical cannabis clinics, strong First Nations and licensed producer relationships, combined with our deep knowledge of safety, security and harm reduction, NAC is perfectly suited to exceed Manitoba's current and future cannabis retail regulatory requirements," said NAC CEO Mark Goliger in a news release. "With the province's decision today, Manitobans will have responsible, secure access to recreational marijuana once legalization occurs. We'd like to thank the team at Cannabis Compliance Inc. for their assistance in executing this successful RFP. We're excited about our company's future in recreational marijuana distribution and I look forward to providing you with updates as we develop these new locations."
Full acceptance of the proposals is contingent on the organizations reaching all necessary agreements and providing required documents as outlined in the province's request for proposals, said Growth, Enterprise and Trade Minister Blaine Pedersen in a news release announcing the successful bidders Feb. 16.
“Following a thorough evaluation process, it has been determined that these four proposals best meet the criteria outlined in the RFP," said Pedersen. "An independent third-party was appointed to ensure the selection process was fair and equitable, and I’d like to thank Optimus | SBR for providing this oversight.”
NCN Chief Marcel Moody said in the First Nation's January Achimowina newsletter that NCN intends to open a store in Thompson, where it owns other businesses, including the Mystery lake Hotel and Family Foods.
"We're always looking for a chance to diversify our economic development," Moody said. "This is a new industry that will bring many benefits to our community, including employment and profits. The legalization of marijuana and the ability to purchase it at a local store should, we hope, lessen the power of the black market, and keep people safe by offering government-approved cannabis. It provides alternatives to pain medications and addictive narcotics. Keeping citizens safe and providing jobs and profitability is a win-win for us."
Thompson city council council unanimously passed a resolution at their Jan. 29 meeting directing city administration to start the necessary planning, zoning and licensing bylaw amendments to make legal marijuana sales a reality in Thompson.
Pedersen said he believed the federal government was rushing the marijuana legalization process but that Manitoba is on track for retail locations to begin operations as early as July 2.
“Manitoba’s hybrid retail and distribution model allows both the public and private sectors to do what they each do best," said Pedersen. "This is a step-by-step process and we’ll continue to work toward our objectives of eliminating the black market and keeping cannabis out of the hands of youth.”