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B.C.'s pot sales lagging significantly behind other provinces

Last Updated Aug 27, 2019 at 4:25 pm PST

FILE - In this March 21, 2015 file photo, a man rolls a marijuana cigarette as a large group gathered near the New Jersey Statehouse to show their support for legalizing marijuana, in Trenton, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

Legal pot sales in B.C. lag behind provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador

B.C.'s legal sales are more than $100 million behind Alberta since October

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – If you buy cannabis yourself or know someone who does, you may be aware many people in British Columbia are continuing to buy their product from where they bought it before legalization.

Cannabis retailers are upset with the situation, which sees legal pot sales in B.C. lagging behind provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador.

With the latest figures showing legal sales more than $100 million behind Alberta since October, Ian Dawkins with the Cannabis Commerce Association of Canada says it comes down to provincial and municipal politicians not understanding the economic potential of legal pot.

He says here, there just isn’t the interest from politicians to push for a strong pot economy.

“Unfortunately in British Columbia it continues to be silly season on this topic. People just don’t take it as seriously as government in Alberta has, and as a result we’re getting out-competed.”

RELATED: Langley business owner wants de-facto ban on pot shops lifted

Dan Sutton is the chief executive of pot producer Tantalus Labs. He says reasonable checks are good but the application process in B.C. is too strenuous, leading to fewer legal stores.

“The fact that there are people who have been sitting on leases for 11 months now, paying out of their own pocket to wait for an opportunity to get into this business – that’s clearly disfunction that’s not happening in other provinces,” he says. “Checks and balances are great, but when checks and balances become red tape – that’s a negative. It’s more because our politicians do not recognize what a large impact this is going to have on our local economy.”

Sutton adds British Columbians want to buy legal weed, but it’s difficult to do so.

“This isn’t a lack of demand – there’s people that want to go to legal retail stores, they want the quality assurance standards that are associated with legal cannabis, they want to purchase from a channel that contributes back to a taxable economy.”

Changes coming to application process

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says the province is looking at ways to speed up the process, but points out B.C. gives municipalities a greater say than anywhere else.

“There are still other municipalities that have not even drafted rules and regulations for cannabis stores in their community, a number of them in the Lower Mainland, for example,” he says.

“We said at the time of legalization taking place – it is going to take a couple of years to get a functioning retail operation up and running in B.C. because of our unique situation, because we have had such an entrenched black market in this province for a very long time.”

He says there’s no comparing the provincial pot economies.

“Has anybody ever heard of the term ‘Alberta bud’? No. They are a completely different province compared to our situation here in British Columbia. One of the things that people have made clear is that they want to see a legal industry, but they also want to see organized crime and criminal activity kept out of it.”

Farnworth says the province is looking at changes to streamline the application process, but would not provide details on what those adjustments could be.

B.C. Liberal MLA Peter Milobar is also critical of the application system. He says the government needs to do a better job.

“Premier Horgan and Minister Farnworth have had almost a year now that we’ve had legalization,” Milobar says. “They’ve been accepting applicants for a year. If they needed to ramp up more manpower to vet these applications, they should have done so.”