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Hundreds of cannabis stores in Alberta but users still turning to black market

WATCH: Canada marked a milestone Thursday: pot has been legal for one year. But how big a dent is the legalization making on the black market? Julia Wong finds out.

Cannabis has been legal in Canada for one year, but it remains unclear how much impact that is having on the black market.

Alberta has more than 300 cannabis stores – more than any other province or territory – and more licences are in the works.

READ MORE: Alberta sees most money spent on cannabis since legalization: StatCan

Numbers from Statistics Canada show Albertans spend more on legal pot than any other Canadians.

“I think certainly the number of retail locations has played a large role in the total number of sales,” said Dave Berry, vice president of regulatory services for Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis.

“Again, Albertans’ willingness to purchase a regulated product versus an illicit product, even if there’s a differential in price point.”

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But Colin Rogucki said he has not bought from a legal weed store in the year since legalization.

Rogucki owns three marijuana paraphernalia stores in Edmonton and has been a cannabis user for 26 years.

“I smoke more recreationally than medically. It was all low THC or middle [THC] and that’s not what we’re looking for. I like to get high and have a good time,” he said.

He said prices are another factor; prices on the black market are cheaper than legal weed stores.

READ MORE: Alberta government collects $30M from cannabis tax since legalization

“Most of the people we know smoke more than a gram or two. At the prices they are selling, there are no bulk discounts,” Rogucki said.

Study finds 4 in 10 Canadians smoking illegal pot
Study finds 4 in 10 Canadians smoking illegal pot

Other data from Statistics Canada shows 40 per cent of Canadian cannabis users still buy from illegal sources.

READ MORE: 40% of Canadian marijuana users bought it illegally even after legalization: StatCan

“We’re seeing a significant amount of cannabis products being shipped through the mail,” said deputy police chief Alan Murphy.

“So far, since June 2019 up to now, we’ve seized, roughly speaking, $700,000 of cannabis. Legal cannabis hasn’t curtailed illicit activities that we’ve seen so far.”

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However, Rogucki still calls legalization successful.

READ MORE: After a year of legal weed, some questions we’ve answered and some we haven’t

“Society did not fail. Now we’re onto step two. We’ll see with concentrates and edibles and things like that, what’s going to happen,” he said.

Rogucki also said he has seen attitudes shift in the year since legalization.

“People used to look at you like, ‘You’re a pot smoker, You were someone who’s a little lower than everyone else,’” he said.

“But now that it’s legal, it’s on par with drinking, cigarettes, things like that.

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“It’s nice to go to a hockey game and be out then go to a legal smoke area and smoke a joint then move on and have your day.”

Black market still drawing many cannabis consumers
Black market still drawing many cannabis consumers