September 17, 2018 6:30 pm

Smelling samples, cook books and no minimum price: what to know about Sask. pot stores

Saskatchewan is one month away from the legalization of cannabis, and retail permit holders are preparing for their eventual store openings. Once they open there will be some tight rules they must abide by.

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Saskatchewan is one month away from the legalization of cannabis, and retail permit holders are preparing for their eventual store openings. Once they open there will be some tight rules they must abide by.

According to a draft version of the Saskatchewan Cannabis Regulatory Policy Manual, store names will not be allowed to contain words that imply they sell medicinal cannabis. Examples of prohibited words include pharmacy, apothecary and dispensary.

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While not a provincial regulation, the manual advises permit holders that a business name using “lifestyle elements” may affect their ability to advertise under the Cannabis Act.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan’s marijuana hiring spree: can you get a job with a criminal record?

The stores also must be open at least six hours per day, five days a week. They have a ceiling for their operating hours as well, 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. the following day. Stores also must follow any local bylaws surrounding operating hours.

Depending on where you shop, you may notice differing pot prices. The SLGA will allow retailers and wholesalers to set their own prices. The regulator does have the ability to set a minimum price, but that has not yet been set.

“There’s just so much unknown. It’s a new frontier so to speak, so nothing on the minimum price right now, but we’ll be looking at that. Again, wanting to have some affect on that black market,” Minister responsible for the SLGA Gene Makowsky said.

Makowksy added they don’t want to see cannabis “given away for free” either. The possibility of a minimum price is expected to be examined once more sales data is generated and business costs, like transportation and production, are better established.

“We’ve always said we want to ere on the side of caution in terms of being too restrictive early on if we are restrictive at all,” Makowsky said. “We want to keep our children and communities safe. I think part of that is a potential minimum price, so it’s not given away by retailers looking to make an inroad into the market.”

Stores will be able to display prices with or without taxes included, their choice.

When you’re in a store you won’t be able to handle the product until you’ve bought it. All packaged cannabis must be kept in an area that accessible only by authorized staff, such as a locked display case or glassed-in counter display.

Everyone working in a retail store will have to successfully complete the province’s responsible marijuana sales training program.

READ MORE: Will roadside drug screening work? What another industry says about the tests

You will also have to be sober when you enter a store, as it is prohibited to sell cannabis to intoxicated persons.

Window displays will not be allowed, as permit holders must keep cannabis and accessories out of the view of minors.

In addition to cannabis, stores are also allowed to sell accessories and ancillary items; such as cannabis cookbooks, magazines, and branded or themed apparel, however, customer loyalty programs are not allowed.

All cannabis that is sold must remain in sealed packaging. Despite this, stores can still allow people to smell their buds before they buy. Opened cannabis must be kept in a sealable container and only handled by employees.

Once opened, the smellable marijuana will not be able to be sold. The store owner must either return it to the supplier or destroy it.

Any destruction must be supervised by a cannabis enforcement officer. The cannabis is considered destroyed with its consumption is rendered impossible or improbable, such as mixing it into organic compost.

READ MORE: Medical marijuana users fear impaired driving laws once cannabis is legal

When stores are closed, businesses have two options for storage. First, lock all cannabis in a safe that is either anchored to the permanent structure of the building or weighs at least 341 kilograms. Second, keep everything inside a steel enforced storage room.

Once businesses are opening, Makowsky said that SLGA officials will be inspecting the storefronts to ensure they meet regulatory requirements before their permits receive final approval.

Since this is a draft document for permit holders, it says that policies regarding cannabis still may change. Once the first year of sales is complete, Makowsky said that the province will examine how things are going.

“We will look at how sales are going,  what effect it’s having on the black market of marijuana sales, and see if there’s a need for any other retail locations, etc,” Makowsky said.

Business owners are also advised that regulations may change at any time, and emergent issues may require immediate and significant policy or regulatory updates.

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