Private cannabis stores may soon be coming to Inuvik, Norman Wells, and Hay River – but not Fort Simpson and Fort Smith.
Requests for qualifications, which allow potential vendors to pre-qualify for the process by which the NWT government selects a store operator, closed for the five communities between December and February.
Around the same time, two private retail cannabis stores were given permission by the territorial government to operate in Yellowknife.
No businesses applied to operate a store in Fort Simpson or Fort Smith.
Subsequent requests for proposals – the second stage of the process, after the request for qualifications – closed in May for Hay River and Norman Wells.
In Hay River, two companies have put forward bids to sell cannabis: a numbered Alberta company and Lake Shore Cannabis.
In Norman Wells, Rampart Rentals submitted a bid.
The opening of a private retailer doesn’t automatically stop the sale of cannabis at the present government-backed liquor stores.
“If the minister of finance designates another retail vendor in either of those communities, the liquor stores could continue to sell cannabis for the duration of their existing contracts,” said a territorial government spokesperson.
The NWT’s retail cannabis framework notes “there is no set cap on the number of cannabis vendors that may be designated.”
In Inuvik, a request for proposals doesn’t close until July 29, so businesses still have nearly two months to get their bids in. Cannabis isn’t currently sold at Inuvik’s liquor store.
The NWT’s Liquor and Cannabis Commission said people can apply at any time to be a private cannabis retailer, but in the meantime it will continue to work with liquor stores in Fort Simpson and Fort Smith to sell cannabis in those communities.