Skip to Main Content

Giant vs. Giant: California & Ontario

California and Ontario are by far the largest markets in their respective countries. Being a pioneer in cannabis legalization, cannabis retail in some form or another has existed in California for years—how does this compare to Ontario’s green boom?

Legal Sales and Market Share

“It’s always a little tricky to compare total sales values because of the two different national currencies,” says Cooper Ashley, Senior Data Analyst at Headset. “That being said, it’s clear that California’s market—with $2.5 billion USD in retail sales so far this year—dwarfs Ontario’s, where $510M CAD has been logged in 2021 so far.”

In both markets, dried flower is by far the best selling product category, however, in Ontario, flower contributes well over half of all sales, whereas in California the category only contributes 42.3% of revenue. In both markets, vapour pens are the second largest category and pre-rolls are third, however, in California, vapour pen market share is much higher, at 22.4%. One of the biggest differences between the state and the province is in edibles’ market share: Ontario has seen only 4.3% of total sales to this category in 2021 whereas California has seen 11.0% of sales.

When we zoom in on the smaller categories, again we see both some similarities and differences between the two markets. Both markets hover around 1.5% of sales to beverages, and less than 1% of sales to topicals. Ontario has higher proportional sales to the oil category (comparable to the tincture category in the US) than California, but the markets both have the same share to capsules (1.4%).

Product Availability

Generally, markets in the US have considerably more SKUs than markets in Canada, resulting in more variety for customers.
“So far in 2021, Headset has tracked 2,231 total unique cannabis products sold in the entire Ontario market,” says Ashley. “In California, we’ve tracked more than 37,000 unique cannabis products sold over the same time frame!”
He goes on to say, “This difference is also reflected at the store level, although the magnitude of the discrepancy is much less. So far in 2021 the median cannabis retailer in Ontario has sold 401 unique cannabis products. In California, the median store has sold 1,100 unique cannabis products this year.”

Number of Legal Storefronts

According to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, there were 1,037 actively licensed cannabis retailers in the province in August 2021. According to the California Bureau of Cannabis Control, there were 1,135 actively licensed storefronts and delivery cannabis retailers in California at the same time. While these counts are pretty close, we can see that by adjusting for the population of each market, surprisingly, residents of Ontario have much greater access to cannabis than Californians do.

California’s long-storied history with cannabis reform and cannabis culture itself has cemented the plant as a major economic driver in the state, however, Ontario seems to be catching up quickly. While the Cannabis Act restricts some of the fun, colourful products that may be available to our Californian counterparts, statistics show that in market share and product preferences we’re not that different after all. In 10 or 15 years time, could Ontario see the same $2.5 billion in sales as California?

Tags: California cannabis industry (1), Canada Cannabis (138), Canadian Cannabis (109), cannabis market share (3), Cannabis Retail (394), cannabis sales trends (49), Headset (41), Ontario cannabis industry (12)