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Stats Canada report: $908M worth of cannabis sold in first year of legalization

Statistics Canada has published its new report on the first year of legal cannabis retail in Canada and the news isn’t as good as many expected.

The major takeaway from “The Retail Cannabis Market in Canada: A Portrait of the First Year” was the total combined sales for the year, which came in at $908 million.

Going into legalization, analysts predicted the first year of legal cannabis retail would result in sales totalling from $1.58 billion (Brightfield Group) to as much as $4.34 billion (Deloitte). Instead, the first year fell nearly $100 million short of a billion.

Despite struggles with supply shortages, monthly sales increased steadily from the last two weeks of October ($39.58 million) and November 2018 ($52.32 million) to a record $124.58 million in August, followed by $121.45M in September 2019.

In particular, sales increased a striking 23% in April 2019 as Ontario adult-use retail came online, and another 17% in August as Alberta and BC each rushed to open more stores.

At the same time, however, online sales declined dramatically, from $17.17 million in the last two weeks of October 2018 and $11.69 million in November 2018, to $7.12 million this past September.

Ontario had no physical stores until April 1, and since then has only opened 24—roughly one store for every 596,666 people. (Compare with Alberta, which has 366 licensed adult-use stores open, or one for every 11,942 Albertans—a fifty-fold difference.)

At present, Stats Can found 45% of Canadians live within 10 km of a cannabis retailer, but 10 km is more than many would like to travel to buy cannabis.

Despite those obstacles, Ontario still managed to sell $217 million, the largest amount of cannabis in the first legal adult-use year, followed by Alberta’s $195.74 million. The lowest sales naturally came from areas with the sparsest populations: Northwest Territories made the fewest sales ($2.74 million), followed by Yukon ($4.22 million).

But Yukon punched far above its weight in per-capita spending on cannabis, leading the country with $103 in cannabis sales per person. It was followed by Prince Edward Island ($97), Nova Scotia ($68), and Northwest Territories ($61).

The per-capita average was $24 per person, though BC, with its entrenched legacy markets, spent the least on legal cannabis ($10), followed closely by Ontario ($15) and Quebec ($23)—populous provinces with well-established unlicensed markets.

“Among the provinces and territories, a diverse array of retail models and regulatory frameworks have influenced the structure and pace of the emerging cannabis market,” Stats Can concludes.

“The cannabis retail market will continue to evolve as jurisdictions adapt their regulatory approaches, as supply chains develop, and as cannabis product offerings diversify.”

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Jesse B. Staniforth's Bio Image
Jesse B. Staniforth

Jesse Staniforth reports on cannabis, food safety, and Indigenous issues. He is the former editor of WeedWeek Canada.

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