As Canadian lawmakers debate the final details of nationwide adult-use cannabis legalization, thousands of entrepreneurs across the country are fighting for a chance to get in on this highly lucrative new industry. But while many of these opportunities are being snatched up by larger corporations, at least one retail license has been awarded to a young, local entrepreneur.
Cierra Sieben-Chuback, a 23-year-old student at the University of Saskatchewan's Edwards School of Business, just won one of the seven cannabis retail licenses being made available in the city of Saskatoon. "It's like my birthday on steroids," she said to CBC News. "This is quite surreal, I'm not going to lie." The student, who is due to graduate this week, has never run a business before, but was still able to beat over 150 applicants for these sought-after licenses.
Last week, the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority held a lottery to choose 51 cannabis entrepreneurs to award licenses to throughout the province. Lottery winners were then subjected to a final screening based, in part, on their financial qualifications. Sieben-Chuback passed this screening, as she is being financed by her father, who runs a successful auto body shop.
This week, the Canadian Senate is finally due to vote on the Cannabis Act after 14 months of debate. If approved, recreational cannabis will be legally available for sale by the end of the summer. The Cannabis Act will establish a number of regulations for the cannabis market that will apply throughout the country, but each province has drafted its own regulations for retail licensing. In many provinces, like Saskatchewan, cannabis licensing is being overseen by the provincial government agency that handles alcohol regulations.
Sieben-Chuback is the only local entrepreneur to win one of the licenses in Saskatoon; the others were awarded to businesses based in other cities, or corporate partnerships. Unlike these other applicants, Sieben-Chuback drew up the application in her bedroom as part of her classwork. Tracey Grand'Maison, another applicant who did not win a license, told CBC News that many other applicants "hired professionals" to fill out their applications for them, yet were still "denied because something wasn't filled out correctly."
Sieben-Chuback told CBC News that she was prescribed medical cannabis as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. "I was told I have to take a bunch of pills every day for the rest of my life," she said. "That's not something that interests me. So I looked into other methods of treatment and then that was kind of my inspiration moving forward into this industry." She added that she hoped that her new dispensary could have "a bit of an emphasis on that medical side" if the province's regulations allow it.