Article by Elizabeth Hames, Growth Op
Oil country. Cattle country. Canada’s conservative stronghold. Alberta goes by many names.
And she is quickly earning another: pot-smoker’s paradise.
Less than a year since legalization, Alberta retailers have brought in more money from weed sales than those in any other province, despite having only 11 per cent of the country’s population.
Albertans have bought more than $120 million worth of government-sanctioned weed since legalization last October, according to recent data from Statistics Canada.
So how did the home of Stephen Harper – the man who warned us cannabis is “inifitely worse” than tobacco and promised to provide $4.5 million a year to the RCMP to crack down on marijuana grow-ops and drug labs – become the most pot-loving province in Canada?
Perhaps because it’s a lot easier to buy legal weed in Alberta. On legalization day, the province shot out of the gate with 17 licensed stores. Compare that to, well, none, in Ontario.
And in British Columbia, a province flush with illegal or “grey market” dispensaries, not to mention the home of famous stoners Seth Rogen and Marc “Prince of Pot” Emery, there was only one store selling legal weed on October 17, 2018.
Today, there are more than 60 stores selling legal recreational cannabis in B.C. (there are plenty more illegal or “grey market” dispensaries still operating). But Alberta still far outpaces the rest of the country with 275 government-sanctioned retail locations.
Many industry watchers credit Alberta’s comparatively free-market regime with its plethora of retail stores. Although the province’s regulatory body, Alberta Gaming Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC), is the sole distributor of recreational cannabis in Alberta, anyone can apply for a license to open up a retail location. They just have to stock their shelves with wholesale product from the AGLC.
B.C. has a similar model, but was slower to begin the long regulatory process of permitting legal dispensaries, which requires retailers to cut through red tape at many levels of government, including rezoning, community consulation and business licensing.
“Alberta had their shit together,” said Terry Booth, CEO of Edmonton-based Aurora Cannabis during a panel session at the Marijuana Business Conference in Las Vegas less than a month after legalization, as reported in the Financial Post. British Columbia and Ontario did not, although he used more colourful language.
Ontario initially planned to sell cannabis through government-run retail locations, similar to how it handles alcohol distribution. But that changed with the election of Premier Doug Ford, who promised a system that would provide government licenses to private retailers, a similar model to Alberta.