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Okanagan retailers mark one year since federal legalization of cannabis

Okanagan retailers mark one year since federal legalization of cannabis
Okanagan cannabis retailers are marking the one year anniversary of federal legalization with pride, but getting their doors open hasn't come without challenges. Shelby Thom reports.

Cannabis Cottage in Penticton, B.C., is celebrating the one-year anniversary of marijuana legalization in Canada with a discount for customers.

“We’re doing 10 per cent off a quarter or more,” said manager Andrew Faraday. The licenced cannabis retailer is one of only two legally operating in the city since August.

“We’ve had a few people complain about packaging and sticker shock, but other than that most people are quite happy that it’s legal,” he said on Thursday.

B.C. predicting legal cannabis prices will drop
B.C. predicting legal cannabis prices will drop

Around 12 private cannabis retailers are currently operating in the Okanagan Valley, with dozens more going through the approvals process.

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There are 144 licenced private cannabis retailers operating province-wide. A government-run BC Cannabis Store also has yet to open its doors in the Okanagan, while seven are in operation elsewhere in B.C.

The City of Penticton says the province plans to open a BC Cannabis Store at 2210 Main Street this fall, while the City of Vernon says provincial staff have indicated they are looking at a mid-May 2020 opening.

READ MORE: Okanagan cannabis extraction company enjoying ‘hyper’ expansion

The slow licencing process and regulatory hurdles also kept the pace of sales in B.C. quite sluggish.

During the first nine months of legalization, B.C. saw just $19.5 million in recreational cannabis sales, according to Statistics Canada. In Alberta, legal pot racked up $123 million in sales over the same time period.  The only province that sold less legal cannabis than B.C. was PEI, which has a far smaller population.

B.C. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Mike Farnworth, said the low sales and revenue is partially attributed to the “entrenched” black market.

“This province is unique amongst the other provinces in the country in that we have had [a] very entrenched black market in this province for decades, both in terms of retail but also in terms of production,” Farnworth said.
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Farnworth said the revenue will start to flow with more stores opening up and as additional licences are handed to producers, pot prices will drop, reducing the sticker shock for consumers.

A line up of customers as Kelowna’s first legal cannabis store opens Thursday morning
A line up of customers as Kelowna’s first legal cannabis store opens Thursday morning

That’s something retail store operators are looking forward to.

“Once that stock increases, those prices should decline and anything to make us more competitive with the black market will be a big help to us,” Faraday said.

Faraday added that while illegal marijuana may be cheaper, it’s safer to purchase from a licensed retailer.

“You know it’s all been tested in clean facilities so that’s why I think more people are coming here now,” he said.

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READ MORE: Okanagan gets legal cannabis shop for Canada Day, a year later than some expected

The next nationwide roll-out is of cannabis edibles, extracts and topicals as new regulations go into effect on Thursday, although they aren’t expected to hit store shelves until mid-December.

“We’re really excited about that, I know there is a lot of new products that weren’t available on the grey or black market before,” Faraday said.