BC Chamber says legal cannabis industry underperforming

Published on January 17, 2022 by David Wylie

A new report from the BC Chamber of Commerce says the cannabis industry is not living up to its potential.

The 33-page document put together by the Chamber’s BC Cannabis Working Group puts forward a number of recommendations it says will put the province back in its rightful place at the head of the industry.

“Although the cannabis industry has deep roots in British Columbia, the legal cannabis industry has performed below or at par with national and provincial averages in terms of total non-medical retail store sales and sales per capita,” says the report’s executive summary.

“These figures do not reflect the overall potential of the province’s cannabis market.”

  • RELATED: See the full report

Among the 13 policy recommendations:

  • Allow private retailers to deliver directly using common carriers and app-based delivery services, such as Skip the Dishes
  • Accelerate farm-gate to early this year and open it to all LPs and nursery licence holders
  • Add an economic mandate for cannabis at the ministerial level
  • Remove the 20% vape tax
  • Rework the excise tax paid on cannabis
  • Either remove or increase the limit for stores under the same chain
  • Allow retailers to move inventory between its own stores

The Chamber says following its recommendations will “unleash billions of dollars in private sector investments.” That would mean more jobs, more tax revenue, and help re-establish BC as a leader in the industry.

Cannabis bigger than forestry

Titled, ‘Unlocking BC’s Cannabis Industry,’ the report was created by a working group co-chaired by BC licensed producer Pure Sunfarms and cannabis retailer Kiaro.

“Last year, the legal cannabis industry contributed more to Canada’s economy than some of BC’s most well-established sectors, such as forestry, mining and meat manufacturing – and it continues to grow despite challenges faced across the board,” says Pure Sunfarms President and CEO Mandesh Dosanjh.

“British Columbia can take a leadership position now to make tangible and responsible choices to propel this sector forward and make the most out of the opportunities cannabis has to offer to improve the province’s competitiveness and diversify our economy.”

There’s still lots of room to grow.

In 2019, BC reported the lowest sales per capita in Canada at $18.87, less than one-fifth of the $101.30 per capita reported in PEI.

“Other Western Canadian provinces had significantly higher numbers. In Alberta, sales were $58.19 per capita, and in Saskatchewan, that figure was $62.53 over the same period. While Ontario was only slightly above BC at $19.53 per capita, this was partially due to an initial slow rollout of retail licences in Ontario,” says the report.

Illicit market thriving

So far legal sales in BC only capture a fraction of the available cannabis market, says the report.

“The province still has some of the highest cannabis usage in the country, with almost 25% of adults reporting having used recreational cannabis in the past three months,” it says. “High reported usage, low sales per capita, and relatively flat prices suggest a thriving illicit market being inadvertently supported by barriers in the regulated industry.”

The report says regulatory obstacles are preventing the industry from living up to expectations.

The working group says its recommendations are consistent with the provincial and federal government’s objectives of eliminating the illicit market, keeping cannabis out of the hands of youth, and protecting public health and public safety.

Photo: BC Chamber of Commerce