People in Atlantic Canada are buying far more legal cannabis per capita than Canadians elsewhere in the country, Statistics Canada figures show.
The numbers reveal dramatic differences between provinces. Prince Edward Island tops the list, with residents on average spending $13.83 each on legal pot in six weeks. Nova Scotia came second, at $11.34.
Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick came third and fourth, respectively.
All four Atlantic provinces were well-prepared for legalization and are now reaping the benefits, says cannabis industry expert Deepak Anand.
“A province like New Brunswick came out very early on, and had a very early lead,” he says. “They saw not just recreational legalization but medical legalization coming on board, and they gave the whole cannabis file to their economic development ministry, that worked with companies that were producers to try to set up in the province.
“They were very eager to get ahead.”
In the rest of the country, Albertans spent $4.53, Ontarians spent $1.54, Quebecers spent $2.53 and British Columbians just 69 cents.
B.C. is a special case because of its well-established and widely tolerated grey-market dispensaries, Anand says.
“There hasn’t been this aggressive enforcement on existing dispensaries to shut down, though the province has hinted many times that that’s coming.
“In effect, nothing significantly changed in B.C. on October 17, as it did perhaps for the rest of the country,” Anand says.
“There wasn’t that level of enthusiasm in B.C. as we saw in the rest of the country, because cannabis access has been relatively easy in B.C. versus other provinces.”
Provinces that had well-developed retail systems open on October 17 brought in much more revenue. Anand says this is because many consumers want in-person advice, and want to be able to see — and smell — the product before they buy.
“There is a desire and an intention, and perhaps a willingness to pay a little bit more to go to a store and talk to a person, versus simply buying something online,” Anand says.
“They want to go and talk to someone and understand all of its properties and understand what it is going to do, even though there is limited information that stores can give. That human interaction is something that people like.”
StatsCan’s cannabis trade figures cover legal recreational sales by bricks-and-mortar stores and online.
Wednesday, P.E.I.’s finance department said that cannabis sales to the end of the year came to $3,509,913, which comes to $23.09 for every islander.