Daniel Kwochka is excited about a new business venture.
He considers himself lucky, winning one of 51 permits in the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming (SLGA) lottery for a cannabis store, which received more than 1,500 applications.
Kwochka was selected for one of Saskatoon’s seven licenses. He will be competing head-to-head with established, but illegal dispensaries.
“I’ll be making a significant investment and I have already and yeah, I don’t think it’s fair.”
In Saskatoon, there are several illegal dispensaries in operation.
In March, the Regina Police Service conducted a raid, forcing the closure of shops. Most shops there have since reopened.
SLGA agrees illegal dispensaries have an advantage and admits Saskatchewan justice, the Crown corporation itself, and police are all on the hook – law enforcement more so than SLGA.
“Our view is they’re not awarded that task on the opening side, it’s on the closing of the illegal that we view as not our authority,” SLGA president Cam Swan said.
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The Saskatoon Police Service has no direct response regarding the comments from SLGA, but said it continues to prioritize resources, focusing rather on the trafficking of other illegal and dangerous substances, rather than the illegal operation of cannabis retailers.
This month, Best Buds Society in downtown Saskatoon will celebrate one year of business.
“(Police) haven’t really actually given us any communication so yeah, we’re just in this like we were from the beginning,” Best Buds Society owner Chris Jordan said.
The illegal dispensary agrees it has an unfair advantage but claims it has an obligation to stay open as it offers edibles, oils and suppositories which will not be offered at permitted shops. These are products often sought by medical marijuana users.
“We do have a lawyer working on an injunction. Who knows what that will turn out to be but again, we’re still open to helping out patients,” Jordan said.