Manitoba cites ‘significant public safety concerns’ in shutting down cannabis store

In what is believed to be a first for Manitoba, the Meta Cannabis Supply Co. store on Long Plain First Nation’s urban reserve in Winnipeg has had its license pulled after regulators reported it was breaching provincial requirements.

It is alleged the store sanctioned and is selling unregulated cannabis from an unlicensed store on the First Nation’s Keeshkeemaquah reserve, according to a joint statement Wednesday from Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries (MBLL) and the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba (LGCA).

Furthermore, the agencies maintain, the Madison St. store is selling “cannabis manufactured in a facility without a federal production licence, which raises significant public safety concerns.”

MBLL, Manitoba’s exclusive cannabis wholesaler, suspended its retailer agreement with NAC Long Plain Limited Partnership, of which Long Plain First Nation is the majority owner, on May 19. This, in turn, resulted in an immediate suspension of the store’s licence by LGCA.

Manitoba’s Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Act requires all weed stores to be licensed by the LGCA. “The store cannot sell cannabis until these suspensions are lifted,” notes the joint statement, which adds “multiple requests to Long Plain First Nation to cease this illegal activity went unanswered.”

A Facebook post, reported on a Long Plain First Nation group site, reports the non-compliance does not relate to the Madison St. store, but to an unlicensed retail outlet on the Keeshkeemaquah reserve in Portage la Prairie called Indigenous Bloom, which is also partly owned by the band.

LGCA has taken “care and control of the store inventory until we can work the situation out,” the Winnipeg Free Press quotes Amanda Creasy, director of public affairs for the agency, as saying. “But we don’t suspect that they were selling unregulated product.”

Its store is operating in full compliance, says Omar Khan, senior vice-president for corporate and public affairs for High Tide Inc., which acquired Meta last November, per the Winnipeg Free Press. “We hold all partners to the same standards as ourselves and, as such, will be taking necessary actions related to the partnership with Long Plain First Nation moving forward,” Khan says.

With regard to compliance, the federal Cannabis Act’s safety and quality regulations are designed to help protect public health. There are requirements in place for producers who grow and manufacture cannabis, as well as industry-wide rules and standards relating to, among other issues, packaging and labeling requirements, prohibitions on the use of certain i

In Manitoba, the licensing framework for cannabis retail “is designed to ensure that adults who choose to use cannabis have access to safe products from regulated retailers,” LGCA CEO Kristianne Dechant says in the recent statement.

Breaching the rules also puts the supply chain and the province’s 80 licensed cannabis retailers at risk, suggests Manny Atwal, CEO of MBLL. “Ignoring unlicensed operators selling unlicensed products jeopardizes licensed stores’ success,” Atwal adds.

MLL can only acquire cannabis from producers licensed by Health Canada.

Cannabis licence suspensions in Canada are not very common, although they have occurred. For example, CannTrust’s production licence was suspended in the summer of 2019 after the company was cited for non-compliance of certain requirements, including inadequate security and improper cannabis storage procedures.

Suspending the sale of products is more common. For example, sales of certain Bonify products were suspended after two product recalls in late 2018, which did not result in any reports of adverse reactions.

More recently, three companies voluntarily suspended sale of specific products, two noting concerns had been raised over mould and the third citing reports of vape pens having a mechanical issue. None of the recalls involved adverse reactions or injuries.

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