YARMOUTH, N.S. – Yarmouth will be one of the locations where cannabis will be sold at the NSLC in July, but it’s only one of nine locations in the entire province where cannabis will be sold in NSLCs, says the province.
It’s also the only location west of Halifax.
There are no locations in Shelburne and Digby counties, and no locations on the province’s south shore or in the valley.
The Nova Scotia government had previously announced that NSLCs locations in the province is where cannabis would be sold from when it is legalized in July. However on Jan. 30 the government surprised many with its announcement that only nine locations in the province will sell cannabis.
The nine locations, announced by Attorney General and Minister of Justice Mark Furey are:
• Amherst – 126 South Albion St.
• Dartmouth – 650 Portland St.
• Halifax – 5540 Clyde St.
• Halifax – 3601 Joseph Howe Dr.
• Lower Sackville – 752 Sackville Dr.
• New Glasgow – 610 East River Rd.
• Sydney River – 95 Keltic Dr.
• Truro – 6 Court St.
• Yarmouth – 104A Starrs Rd.
The NSLC will also reopen the former store on Clyde St. in Halifax. It will exclusively sell cannabis.
For those not close to a location where cannabis will be sold, the government says online sales from the NSLC, with home delivery, will be offered. Additional details about online sales will be announced at a future date.
Nova Scotians will also be able to grow up to four plants per household.
“Our main priority in preparing for the legalization of cannabis has been, and will continue to be, the health and safety of Nova Scotians,” said Furey. “Selling through NSLC stores allows us to leverage their experience and expertise in selling these products responsibly in a safe environment.”
On social media throughout the day of the announcement there has been much criticism over the gaps between locations and the long distances many in rural Nova Scotia would have to drive to make purchases at an NSLC location.
Furey spoke with reporters on Tuesday to further explain the government’s position in restricting the sale to so few locations, and has spoken with media outlets.
He said the factors included in making the selections were based on NSLC space available to be converted, the concerns around the transition from an illicit drug to a recreational drug, and the as-yet untried business case for actual sales of legal pot. He continued to push the fact that it will be available for purchase online.
“We recognize that not everybody has access to high speed Internet, but that online home-delivery option will still serve a purpose,” Fury said in response to questions from the Annapolis Valley Register. “We also believe that there will be people who will grow their own product, so in this approach, we’re trying to address those circumstances.
“But as I said earlier . . . there’s a lot of unknown in the space of how busy these retail models are going to be and what the uptake will be on that online delivery and what percentage of the population will actually grow their own product.”
He said the next year will be a period of analysis to see that the future holds when it comes to the retail model “and one’s ability to access recreational cannabis will be going forward.”
“I personally was blown away to see the limited options people will have as far as retail outlets they can go to to purchase cannabis,” said Debbie Stultz-Giffin who heads up Maritimers United for Medical Marijuana Society. “Absolutely shocked. If they think they’re going undermine the black market in this province by only offering nine retail outlets, most of them based in liquor corporations, they’re sadly, sadly mistaken.”
Stultz-Giffin, who is from West Dalhousie in Annapolis County, said the online purchase option may do something to allow rural Nova Scotians access to marijuana, but she’s not convinced.
“Sitting back and looking at the whole scenario, many of the people who consume cannabis on a recreational basis do last minute purchase on a Friday night,” she said. “It’s an economically deprived province and most people live paycheque to paycheque, so how are they going to be able to purchase cannabis online in advance of perhaps a weekend event. It just doesn’t seem like a practical solution at all when most people would be looking at at least a two-day delivery time I would imagine.”
She said that while the planned roll-out will put many recreational users at a disadvantage in most of the province, those who use cannabis for medical reasons will be just as impacted and their health will suffer.
“Anybody who has to drive those overwhelming distances to purchase cannabis will end up being disadvantaged by the whole process,” she said. “The last I heard there were only eight per cent of the doctors in this province authorizing patients to use cannabis. So patients that go to other doctors who refuse to sign their licenses will again be denied access if they have to make that long of a trip to purchase their medicine.”
The government, meanwhile, in a media release says social responsibility will be a core value that guides how the NSLC sells cannabis. The NSLC will comply with all federal requirements with regards to how cannabis is sold and advertised. Staff will be trained to help customers make informed, responsible choices.
A request for proposals was being issued Jan. 30 for construction services to make alterations to the locations listed above.
The province says the federal government also recently completed consultation on additional regulations. These regulations, which may include packaging, labelling and tracking, will impact how retailers will sell cannabis. Additional announcements about the NSLC’s cannabis retail model, including store configuration, will be made as decisions are finalized.
For more information on cannabis legalization, visit www.novascotia.ca/cannabis.
(WITH FILES FROM LAWRENCE POWELL)
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