Cannabis sales jumped $11M in May as more stores open

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Canadians bought $85 million worth of legal weed in May, $11 million more than April’s sales, figures released Friday by Statistics Canada show.

On a per-capita basis, sales continued to be strongest in Atlantic Canada Prince Edward Islanders bought $8.47 worth of cannabis per capita, far more than any other province and also in Saskatchewan.

Sales saw the strongest growth in B.C., Ontario and Quebec. Provinces that haven’t expanded their retail networks since legalization, like Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, show stable levels of sales.

British Columbia’s legal stores have faced competition from a very entrenched grey-market sector and have been slow to open compared to Alberta. Major centres like Nanaimo, Kelowna and Penticton still don’t have stores.

Ontario didn’t start to open physical stores until April 1, more than five months after legalization. Only winners of a lottery were allowed to open the first set of 20 stores, and not all of them did. Despite a rocky start, legal cannabis sales jumped dramatically in April in Ontario.

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Quebec has also been slow to roll out stores. There are still only 16, and one opened in Gatineau only recently. There are still no stores in Sherbrooke, Saguenay, the Laurentians or the Gaspé. The SQDC, the government-owned monopoly, plans to have 40 stores open by March of next year. (Alberta is heading toward 200 store licences by the end of July.)

Quebec’s stores, like others across the country, have struggled with supply issues.

Once again, cannabis sales are tightly linked to openings of retail stores. Although most provinces run online cannabis sales sites, Canadians seem reluctant to use them, strongly preferring to deal with physical stores. In Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, over 90 per cent of cannabis sales are in person.

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In an email, Brock University business professor Michael Armstrong linked the sales increase to more supply being available to retailers, stores opening in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario and longer store opening hours in Quebec.

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