In Vancouver, the bulk of water-cooler talk about marijuana legalization invariably relates to the city’s estimated 100 storefront dispensaries.
The shops are hard to ignore. In some neighbourhoods, they have popped up on almost every block, and often with big pot leaves glowing green from fluorescent lights and other signage.
Canada’s sanctioned cannabis producers don’t receive the same attention, at least on the west coast. But they haven’t gone away.
The number of companies authorized under the former Conservative government’s Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) has grown steadily since the revised system’s introduction in April 2014. Today there are 27, six of which are based in British Columbia.
For the licensed producers—or LPs, as they are commonly referred—growth in sales has been steady but slow.
During the second quarter of 2014 (the first three months following the MMPR’s implementation), licensed producers together sold 408 kilograms of medical marijuana.
That increased to 1,371 kilograms one year later, and up to 1,873 during the third quarter of 2015, the latest period for which data is available.
That’s beginning to sound like a lot, until you compare it to estimates for how much pot is moving through Vancouver’s illegal dispensaries.
By the Straight’s conservative calculations, the city’s roughly 100 storefronts move somewhere between 3,330 and 10,050 kilograms of pot each quarter.
That is, Vancouver’s dispensaries likely sell more in one month (1,110 to 3,350 kilograms) than the entire country’s sanctioned LPs sell in three months.
I recently spoke with the board chair of the Canadian Medical Cannabis Industry Association (CMCIA), and he remained optimistic about the LPs’ prospects, despite competition from the dispensaries.
“We’re pleased with the way the business is growing,” said Cam Battley, a spokesperson for the organization. “The MMPR is growing as it should. For a program that is only a couple of years old, it has been a success.”