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People browse the shelves of a Societe Quebecoise du Cannabis (SQDC) store on Oct. 16, 2018, in Montreal.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Canadians spent about $908 million on non-medical cannabis in the first year since legalization, but online sales dropped as more brick-and-mortar locations opened, said Statistics Canada.

Canadians spent $907,833,000 on non-medical cannabis between October 2018 and September 2019, the agency said, which works out to $24 per capita.

Canada legalized cannabis on Oct. 17, 2018, becoming the second country in the world – after Uruguay – to legalize the drug. Demand initially appeared to outstrip supply as retailers warned of a pending shortfall of product.

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Over the year, demand appeared to be highest in the sparsely populated Yukon where sales per capita led the other provinces and territories at $103, according to Statistics Canada. It was not able to provide data for Nunavut – the only area without a physical store.

Prince Edward Island sales per capita were the second highest at $97, while B.C. ranked lowest at $10.

Throughout the year, Canadians’ access to cannabis stores increased. The number of retail stores jumped from 217 this past March to 407 in July, according to the agency.

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Alberta boasts the highest number of stores at 176 and B.C. took second place with 57 stores. Nunavut had the fewest with zero, followed by Prince Edward Island and the Yukon, both of which have four.

Nineteen per cent of Canadians lived three kilometres from a cannabis store as of July 2019. Thirty per cent lived 30 kilometres away and 45 per cent lived within 10 kilometres.

Albertans enjoyed the closest proximity to a store of any province, with half of the population living within three kilometres of a cannabis outlet. That figure rises to 63 per cent for five kilometres and 70 per cent for 10 kilometres.

Ontarians lived the furthest from cannabis stores on average. Nine per cent of the population resided three kilometres from a cannabis store. Eighteen per cent lived five kilometres away and 33 per cent were 10 kilometres away.

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As the number of physical stores increased, the share of online sales dropped from 43.4 per cent in October 2018 to 5.9 per cent in September 2019.

“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,” wrote Statistics Canada in its paper.

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