The COVID-19 sales surge that depleted store shelves of toilet paper, disinfectants, baking products and booze has not carried over into legal marijuana, according to the latest sales figures from the B.C. government.
Sales from licensed private and public cannabis retail stores continued the steady rise of early 2020 through March and April, with a slight decline in dollar value in May, sales figures from the Ministry of Public Safety show. More than three million grams of cannabis or equivalent in concentrates were sold in May through the province’s monopoly wholesaler.
By dollar value, B.C. sales declined from $19,715,535 in April to $19,435,1818 in May, suggesting more lower-value purchases for the month. Overall, sales by weight and value have increased from $17.6 million in January, with a dip in February before widespread shutdown of business and employment due to pandemic public health measures.
By contrast, the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch reported a jump of more than 21 per cent in alcohol sales for March and April, even as bars, pubs and many restaurants shut down.
A poll released June 9 by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction found that while 20 per cent of people forced to stay home were drinking every day, 80 per cent of respondents said their consumption was about the same or less during the pandemic. Participants in the Nanos survey cited stress and boredom for increased drinking.
Actual cannabis use has to include the black market, which carries on as the majority supplier of B.C. recreational cannabis after many years of providing an estimated half of Canada’s production. The province’s figures for cannabis are only for the legal market, where B.C. lags far behind Alberta, Ontario and Quebec as of April, the latest sales figures available from Statistics Canada show.
The B.C. government has met with cannabis industry groups, including the Nelson-based Craft Cannabis Association of B.C. the B.C. Craft Farmers Cooperative, which has released its proposal to increase B.C.’s legal production. The province maintains a monopoly on wholesale and online sales, through government-owned B.C. Cannabis Stores.
“Many of the issues raised in the [Craft Farmers] proposal align with items the Province is actively considering – for example farm to gate sales and online sales – which could have a significant impact on the legal cannabis industry’s overall competitiveness while also supporting the transition of legacy producers,” said a statement released to Black Press Media by Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth’s office June 19. “The proposal also identifies concerns shared by the Province about federally authorized personal medical cannabis production and the amount of medical cannabis being diverted to the illicit market. This is something we have raised with Health Canada and will continue to voice our concerns about.”
Federal growing licences were given to commercial medical growers, and people growing small amounts to supply registered patients prescribed cannabis for their illness during the years when only medical use was legal.