Since cannabis was legalized in October 2018, there have been mixed results about the rollout of cannabis retail stores.
Nation-wide supply shortages have led to retail locations cutting back their hours, and limiting their inventory. Supply shortages have also led provincial governments to restrict the amount of applications they approve.
Edible cannabis products remain illegal, as do cannabis concentrates. The government is currently working on policy to roll out these products to the public. They are expected to be regulated around October 2019, as laid out in the Cannabis Act. Despite their illegal status, many stores still sell the products.
B.C. has only 27 retail cannabis locations, according to the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch, seven of which are in Vancouver, and four in Victoria. B.C. accounted for only 3.4 percent of legal cannabis sales. This may come as a shock to Vancouver Island residents who buy cannabis from non-licensed locations that operated prior to legalization and have remained open.
Franchises like Trees Island Grown are still in the process of getting licensed in Nanaimo. Further south, North Cowichan council denied a rezoning bid from Leaf Compassion Cannabis, a retail outlet that was operating in Chemainus prior to legalization. Ladysmith still doesn’t know if it will allow retail cannabis
B.C.’s slow roll out of cannabis stores has led the government to adjust their estimated tax revenues from $200 million to $68 million over three years. This reduced estimate is not reflective of B.C. residents buying cannabis from non-licensed retail stores. According to the Cannabis Act, being in possesion of unlicensed cannabis is against the law, so despite buying cannabis from a retail store, some B.C. residents are buying black market products unwittingly, which could expose them to potential legal consequences.
The world is looking to Canada as a test case in how a federal legalization of cannabis can play out. So far, there have been some successes, but the continued success of legal cannabis in Canada appears to be a slow-burn process fraught with delays, supply shortages, and financial burdens to store operators.
Only time will tell how Canada can solve its cannabis conundrum.