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The Pot Snapshot: Province to Province

Posted by Emma Baron on

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Song of the Week - Lodestar by Sarah Harmer

A Lodestar is a star used as a point of reference for other stars and a guide for ships, like the North star. This is a soft little tune with pretty lyrics leads us through the Canadian wilderness and its tranquility. It would seem that each province is following their own cannabis lodestar... or is it closer to the song lyrics, with no lodestar in sight? We're all still in the dark as we work through legalization, but with great ambiguity comes great possiblities?
The Long Form - Provincial Pot Passport

What's good, Canada? With everyone talking about the strides we've made in cannabis over the last year of legalization, we thought it would be fun to do a provincial news round-up. We're making lists of who's naughty and who's nice, so that you can plan which relatives to visit for the holidays.

If you're a regular CBC radio listener like a good little leftie Canadian, you'll have often heard: "Stay tuned for the news coming up at 4pm, 4:30 in Newfoundland". There are a few places around the world that have created their own special time zones - but since legalization, we've been wondering whether Newfoundland was just ahead of the curve, scheduling time for their afternoon 'safety meeting'. Having this extra little time advantage also meant that that a Newfoundlander got to claim the title of first legal cannabis purchase. Rose-coloured glasses off, the big hairy conversation in this province is the 8% markup allowed to retailers, creating very difficult operating budgets, especially for independent retailers.

New Brunswick
"The sky hasn't fallen" in New Brunswick post-legalization, however the provincial retail model only acheived 30% of projected revenues, even though 24% of New Brunswick citizens reported they were purchasing legal cannabis, one of the highest rates in the country. Perhaps a sign that cannabis is ubiquitous in this province is the story out of Saint John where a restaurant is putting CBD oil on chicken wings and calling it vitamins.

Nova Scotia
On one hand, this province seems to have thought out their process carefully. Cannabis stores are smaller rooms within provincial liquor stores, a move we deem to be wise and efficient, considering the 10 - 12 feet of snow that falls on the province each winter. On the other hand, one of the strangest news stories came out of this province: a bungled order from NSLC where the customer was sold a container filled with nuts and bolts, rather than cannabis. 

Prince Edward Island
PEI has turned itself into a 'have' province when it comes to cannabis. This province estimates they've converted 30 - 40% of the market to legal purchases. They attribute part of their success to a busy tourist season, despite the fact that most tourism operators had banned cannabis consumption on their properties. Hmm...

We don't want to talk about it. The only reason to visit is if you know where Doug Ford's secret smoking lair is located. 

Northwest Territories
The NWT had us talking about their education program this year. They took an art-led approach, engaging an artist to create posters that had mixed reactions from the public. The reality-augmented posters come to life through animation when you hold up your smartphone to the art, which seemed to engage teens. The territory plans to engage and educate all 33 communities with programs tailored to their citizens, which may include activations like theatre performances. Avant-ganja!

We predict private dinner parties will be on the rise in Manitoba, considering the province has banned public consumption of edibles. It will be interesting to watch how this is enforced. Will all Manitobans have to give the first bite of a publicly-consumed cookie to the nearest police officer? Smoking and vaping cannabis are also banned in public, which makes us wonder if Manitobans will have any motivation to leave the house this winter?

They're doing things a little differently here, as they usually do. Saskatchewan was one of few provinces to skip the middleman, allowing retailers to purchase directly from suppliers. This keeps costs a little lower for consumers, but makes it difficult for independent retailers with less buying power. Enter the Saskatchewan Cannabis pool. Modelled after the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, formed in 1924 when a group of farmers came together to work towards better prices for their wheat. We appreciate that they're drawing inspiration from their agricultural roots, and we look forward to seeing what kind of hemp and cannabis farming advancements come out of this province.

Did you know that the good people of Nunavut have just two choices of online retailers? Tweed and Vertical Cannabis are your choices, like it or not. One year in, the government of Nunavut has realized this ain't gonna cut it. Part of the slow evolution is due to the province's cannabis legislation that requires that all communities are directly involved in decisions about retail - but perhaps we will see them evolve a solution that sheds light on the way we provide accessible physical retail options where the Canadian population is widely dispersed.

But why would you leave when you're winning at cannabis, pals? Separatist politics (and Treaty rights?!) aside, Alberta is to cannabis retail what New York is to bodegas - they're in every neighbourhood, almost on every block. Alberta also embraced cannabis at some large public events, providing sanctioned consumption spaces at Calgary and Edmonton's Folk Festivals and Lethbridge's Whoop-Up.

Another province legislating cannabis in their own distinct way, Cannabis Yukon's store closed on October 17th, 2019, the anniversary of legalization. It's not all over though, this just marks the end of the first phase of their plan, where the government is now handing over retail to the private sector who have had a bit of time to prepare. This is an interesting combination of approaches that has allowed the government to have some first-hand experience in the game, and we hope that will create a good working relationship with retailers.

British Columbia
From hundreds of legacy market dispensaries in its heyday to just one retail location approved for the first day of legalization in 2018,  BC is another province that didn't have a smooth legalization roll-out, initially. They have performed much better over the latter part of the last year though, with over 100 stores now open across the province, and some legacy market retail locations like The Village Bloomery who have been able to obtain government licences.
The Social Calendar
  • Fredericton, NB: Cannabis Connect by BioNB on Tuesday, November 12th, 2019 from 9:30am - 2pm at the Wu Conference Centre
  • Edmonton, AB: Women, Wellness & Weed Dinner by Mary Jane Brunch on Saturday, October 26th from 6:30 - 9:30pm at The Butternut Tree
  • Victoria, BC: Complementary Medicine by UVRA on Saturday, November 2nd from 10am - 12pm at The University of Victoria 
  • Toronto, ON: Cannabis Wedding Expo  on Sunday, October 27th from 11am - 3pm at the Berkley Church
Did we miss a major legalization story from your home province? Send us your favourite cannabis story from the last year and we'll be sure to write about it in our next newsletter.

Until next time, paddle your own canoe...

- Emma & Carol
Milkweed website

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