Cannabis history: How sales have fared since legalization

Profits increase as black market sales go down

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By Amir Khan

British Columbia’s cannabis sales continue to rise, as law enforcement grapples with the unregulated market.

According to a 2021 report by the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research (CISUR), December, 2020 saw Canada-wide sales had amounted to $290 million, roughly equating to 8,000 kilograms of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

The report found that cannabis sales doubled from 64 milligrams per person to 129 mg per person by 2020.

“As cannabis sales by the B.C. government expand, we hope there is a balance between consumer preferences, revenue considerations and public health,” Tim Naimi, director of the University of Victoria-based institute, said at the time.

“Examples of such strong policy solutions might include cannabis-specific taxes, minimum prices per gram of THC and potency restrictions,” Naimi said.

Legalization driving growth

The legalization of cannabis in October 2018 has resulted in sales doubling on a yearly basis, aided by the pandemic and the provincial government’s announcement allowing registered cannabis retailers to offer home delivery services in July 2021.

The Canadian government allowed the commercial production and sale of cannabis products such as edibles and vape oils a year later. However, under federal law, provinces and territories are held responsible for determining how cannabis is distributed and sold. Provinces and territories are also free to make additional restrictions that supersede federal regulations.

In December 2020, B.C. ranked fourth highest in legal cannabis sales at $42.5 million, according to Statistics Canada’s 2021 survey.

While B.C.’s registered sales increased two-fold following 2020, Statistics Canada found a national decrease in sales in the unregulated cannabis market from 52 per cent to 40 after legalization.

“In B.C., the decrease was smaller with 51 per cent of consumers still reporting purchasing from the unregulated market compared to 55 per cent prior to legalization,” the CISUR report said.

The decrease in unregulated sales is said to be due to the ongoing activities of individual dealers and a continuously declining number of unregulated cannabis retailers. The report added that the numbers have likely changed as the unregulated market is difficult to track.

In June, 2021, Surrey RCMP launched an investigation into drug trafficking associated with a commercial property.

Officers from the Surrey Drug Unit and Gang Enforcement Team executed search warrants under the Cannabis Act at a home in Surrey and a commercial property in Langley. The search yielded five firearms, over $30,000 in cash, nearly 8,000 cannabis clone plants, five bricks of hashish and 71 pounds of pre-packaged cannabis among other cannabis extract products.

“Although cannabis is now legal to consume and purchase in Canada, it is strictly regulated,” said Const. Sarbjit Sangha, Surrey RCMP media officer. “Even though it may be just a bit of pot, when you buy your cannabis from illicit sources, you are helping to put money and guns into the hands of criminals.”

The province has continued to encourage consumers to move away from the unregulated market via its Buy Legal ad campaign, aimed at educating the public on buying cannabis from provincially recognized retailers.

As of October, 2021, B.C. had 375 licensed private retail stores, in addition to 30 public retail stores under the province’s BC Cannabis brand.

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