Improved sales at Cannabis NB may give province second thoughts on unloading operation

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Cannabis NB is looking more attractive by the day.

As New Brunswick mulls eight separate private-sector applications to purchase the province’s marijuana sales and distribution business, an increase in sales by the agency might have the government reconsidering the transaction altogether.

The cannabis retailer recorded sales of $3.47 million in November, according to Statistics Canada, a 4.8 per cent increase from the previous month and 14.6 per cent better than the same month fared in 2018.

It was the only Atlantic province that experienced a month-over-month increase, with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador experiencing a drop off, and sales remaining flat in P.E.I.

“We’ve been able to offer competitive pricing, with our per gram price going as low at $3.30, tax in, on promotions,” Cannabis NB spokesperson Tom Tremblay told the CBC. “This has attracted new customers and more consistent traffic in our stores.”

It might also make the province do a little more soul-searching before finalizing the sale of its cannabis business, which it hopes to have completed by the summer.

“Should the negotiations fail to yield a compelling offer that we are satisfied with, government can walk away and continue to seek efficiencies with the current public sector model or look to another private sector model,” said Finance Minister Ernie Steeves.

Cannabis NB has been selling some of its supply of “loose buds” for as little as $5.33 per gram on bulk buys and has dropped the prices of some pre-rolls from $7.50 to $5 each. It is also benefiting from a police crackdown on black market operators that may be funnelling more consumers into legal channels.

Despite the encouraging developments, some experts have said Cannabis NB will have to further reduce its prices to continue to compete with the illicit market. “The government should never have been in the business,” University of Waterloo professor Anindya Sen told Postmedia.

“Why would you want to have a monopolist? Why would government not auction off the stores they have, get some returns from that, and people who want to buy the stores can open up the market? I don’t understand why governments across Canada are veering away from competitive markets,” Sen said.

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