According to BC’s Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, the value of the province’s legal cannabis industry has “more than quadrupled” over the last three years. BC is celebrating being the province with the third-highest number of retailers and the second-highest number of federal production license holders in the province.
While BC is often the first province one might think of when it comes to cannabis, its government hasn’t always been the most trusting of its legal market. It has a long history with grey market retailers and illicit dealers with connections to organized crime, so the apprehension may have been warranted, however, this approach has held BC back in the long run.
In the early days, several key municipalities in and around Vancouver opted out of cannabis retail, creating cannabis deserts in major population centres, and even in the height of the pandemic, the government wouldn’t allow legal retailers to deliver directly to their customers. Recently, this has been allowed, however.
The BC market has been notoriously hard to “crack”, not only because of extensive licensing requirements but exorbitant licensing fees as well.
Strong and Diverse Sector
As the sector matures, however, the province has been loosening the apron strings and starting to explore what the industry can offer the province.
“As British Columbia passes the three-year anniversary of non-medical cannabis legalization, we are continuing to develop made-in-BC approaches to ensure we have a strong and diverse cannabis sector while working to keep organized crime out of the industry,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General in a news release. “Legal B.C. cannabis businesses contribute to local economies and generate tax revenues that help pay for the schools, hospitals and services we all rely on.”
At the time of the news release, the province counted 375 licensed retailers and 30 BC Cannabis Stores, with 57 more licenses in progress. In the last year or so, more municipalities are recognizing the economic and public health benefits of legal cannabis retail, too.
Focus on Producers
Although the regulator states that it has been doing its best to make things easier for retailers to get their licenses, most of its focus appears to be on the 192 federal licensed producers operating in the province. Over the last three years, there have been several initiatives to help boost the economic driver that is cannabis cultivation and processing.
According to the news release, a pilot project in Central Kootenay that the province helped fund created 62 jobs and helped 53 businesses receive their licenses. On top of that, BC has been vocal in its support of craft cannabis growers and hopes to implement direct delivery and farm-gate sales in 2022 to bolster brand recognition for smaller brands, including Indigenous producers and retailers.
Between July 2020 and July 2021, the province reported $525.9 million in sales. Compared to the first year of sales, which amounted to barely $63 million, BC, and the industry at large, has come a long way. As regulators put more trust in retailers, producers, and the market, sales and innovations can only improve.