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How much Canadians spend on pot (legally)

Close-up of young woman in sunglasses smoking a marijuana joint

Canadians spent $24 per capita on legal cannabis in the first 11 months since recreational pot was legalized, according to Statistics Canada.

The federal agency found spending topped $908 million at online and physical stores between October 2018, the month Canada became the first G7 nation to allow legal sales of recreational cannabis, and last September.

The total falls far short of the $4.34 billion, including medical purchases, projected by Deloitte for Canada in 2019. The majority of that figure is expected to come from legal channels.

Ontario, Canada’s largest province by population, led in terms of total dollars spent on pot at $216 million, followed by Alberta ($195 million), Quebec ($194 million) and Nova Scotia ($65 million). The smallest regions led in per capita sales. Yukon residents spent $103 per capita, followed by Prince Edward Island ($97) and Northwest Territories ($61). Data were not available for Nunavut.

“Differences between regions in total and per capita cannabis store sales may be explained in part by Canadians’ access to cannabis stores,” the federal agency said in a release on Wednesday. 

Legal cannabis sales are controlled by a patchwork of provincial regulations established post-legalization spanning the public and private sectors.

Statistics Canada said a variety of factors may influence access to legal cannabis, including regulatory steps to establish a cannabis store, illegal market competition, population and store density, and supply. 

The total number of cannabis retail stores in Canada rose from 217 in March 2019 to 407 in July 2019, an increase of 88 per cent, according to the data. Alberta held top rank in store count since legalization and opened the most stores at 10 between March and July 2019 for a total of 176 cannabis stores province-wide. Meanwhile, British Columbia had just 16 stores in March. The number of outlets in B.C. increased to 57 in July, the second highest in the country. Ontario has 24 open for business.

Statistics Canada noted that Ontario has surpassed Alberta in sales volume. 

“Prior to legalization Ontario shifted from its planned public retail model to a hybrid model, permitting a first wave of private brick-and-mortar stores to open in April 2019,” the agency said in its release. 

However, 70 per cent of Albertans were found to live within 10 kilometres of a cannabis retail outlet in July, compared to 33 per cent in Ontario that month. 

Online sales started out strong post-legalization, but tapered as more physical stores opened. 

“While online cannabis retail ensures access to all Canadians regardless of proximity to a physical store, accessibility continues to improve as more stores open across the country,” StatsCan said.

Jeff Lagerquist is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jefflagerquist.

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