Minister Responsible for SLGA Gene Makowsky defended the “random” process used by the provincial government to determine winners and losers of the cannabis lottery that were announced Friday morning.
More than two-thirds of the 51 winners are from Saskatchewan or have Saskatchewan business ties, according to the province. Makowsky said of the roughly 1,500 initial applicants, about 150 were rejected for “various reasons” and were not included in the lottery.
Tweed Grasslands of Yorkton was awarded five permits in five different communities while Synergy Five Investments LP won three permits in three different communities.
“It was a random process — a random draw — and that’s what came out of the draw. Each proponent had one chance in each municipality, or each location,” Makowsky said.
Makowsky compared the process to home lottery draws or sports draft lotteries.
He said a third-party, auditing company KPMG, was responsible for overseeing the lottery draw process and will be issuing a fairness report. KPMG officials were present for the draw, Makowsky said.
“There was no political interference. I wasn’t there. Nobody from the minister’s office had anything to do with it whatsoever,” Makowsky said.
“This represents the next step in the process of having a privately-operated cannabis retail system carefully regulated by SLGA,” Makowsky said in a statement. “There was a lot of interest in the public Request for Proposal process, resulting in many new businesses that will invest in our province.”
The list of winners includes federally licensed cannabis producers and sellers, like the Canopy Growth Corporation, which won five stores. There are also locally-owned companies, as well as an investment company belonging to five First Nations, that were successful.
Winners were selected after a two-phased request for proposal process that started in March. Applicants were screened for qualifications and financial assets, before being entered into a lottery.
Now, the successful applicants will have to pass a criminal record check and character test. The province was scant on the details of what the criteria for those would be. For example, the government won’t say whether or not a successful applicant currently operating an illegal cannabis dispensary would be disqualified.
The successful proponents now have 45 days to begin their permitting process. Permits dictate the stores start operating within 12 months of cannabis legalization, expected later this year.
Makowsky told reporters the province doesn’t expect marijuana to be legal, or commercially available, until at least Aug. 7.
Here is the full list of winners: