A national cannabis shortage has led to corporate battles for whatever pot is available. Now, Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis has stepped in to referee some of the disputes.
Retailers are no longer be able to order pot online. On Monday, the AGLC told all store owners they would have to manually order their next shipment.
When marijuana became legal on Oct. 17, licensed retailers could place orders with the AGLC online. The first company to stake a claim to the pot would receive it.
AGLC said it has not received the product it expected by growers. Nationally, other regulators are dealing with similar shortages. Demand has met or exceeded expectations. Those market conditions meant the online ordering plan did not work as intended.
Retailers fiercely competed for whatever product they could find.
Joshua Vera is the founder of Elevate Cannabis in Edmonton. His company received a licence to start selling two weeks ago.
His doors remain closed and on Wednesday, he put up a sign telling would-be customers he’s out of stock.
“It’s been frustrating,” Vera said. “I’ve been getting phone calls all day, every day. People are asking when I’m going to be open, if I have product.”
Vera has been trying to buy product. Since getting his licence, he and his store manager have spent many sleepless nights sitting in front of computers waiting for AGLC to get something they can order.
“It was probably about 99 per cent of logging in and seeing everything was out of stock. When something was uploaded to the system, it would be a matter of literally seconds before it was gone.”
There was always some other retailer able to order the cannabis faster.
Watch below: As cannabis shortages continue across Canada, even the AGLC’s website has almost nothing available for buyers. As Fletcher Kent reports, some say the supply chain needs to be fixed.
Global News called all the cannabis stores in the Edmonton region. Most are either out of product or have limited supplies. Fire and Flower indicated it had “lots” of stock at all of its stores.
Stories like this prompted AGLC to change its ordering process. All stores must now manually submit an order form once a week. The AGLC will then determine how to divvy up whatever supply it has.
“I think this fair allocation of the inventory will ensure every retailer gets a fair shot at some product instead of some maybe getting more and some getting none,” the AGLC’s Riaz Nejad said.
Some retailers have expressed concerns other stores were using automated bots to secure shipments. The AGLC says it is not aware of any bots but this new method levels the playing field.
The new ordering process does not deal with the bigger issue.
READ MORE: Edmonton Marijuana enthusiasts line up at cannabis stores on legalization day.
The AGLC hasn’t received the shipments promised by growers. It wouldn’t say how much less it has received. Nejad would only say the regulator is “substantially short.”
Nova Scotia says it has received only 40 per cent of what it had ordered. New Brunswick got between 20 and 30 per cent of what the regulator there expected on legalization day. Quebec has had to reduce store hours to four days a week to deal with supply problems.
Growers have said they have the capacity to meet demand over the long term. Initial hiccups and growing pains coupled with high demand in the early days of legalization have created some problems.
The AGLC, however, says the shortages could be chronic. Staff have been looking for new suppliers but so far, no luck.
READ MORE: More Edmonton Cannabis stores face supply shortages; demand ‘way more than anticipated’
“We’ve talked to every other licensed producer in Canada that has a sales licence and we’re getting little bits of product coming in,” said Nejad, who predicts the shortages could last another six to 18 months.
Vera worries about that. Right now, though, he’s relieved the new ordering system is giving him something to sell.
He’s expecting his first delivery next week and thinks Elevate could open next Saturday.
Despite these problems and his unexpected added costs, Vera still believes in the industry.
“We’ll get there,” he said. “We’re less than a month into legalization and we’ll get there.”