Skip to main content
//empty //empty

Canada’s rollout of physical cannabis stores has been uneven, to put it mildly.

For that reason, the ease of buying cannabis in person largely reflects where you live.

The Globe has analyzed Canada’s retail footprint to see where store supply is severely lacking. The standout areas? Canada’s largest cities, along with mid-sized markets in Ontario and Quebec where, nearly eight months after the legalization of recreational use, a single store has yet to open.

Story continues below advertisement

The sluggish rollout is significant because, to help tamp down the illegal market, Canada will need a robust retail presence.

“The limited data suggest that generally speaking, provinces that have more stores per capita are getting more sales per capita, and therefore are taking a bigger chunk out of their respective black markets,” says Michael Armstrong, a business professor at Brock University.

As of May 31, there were 290 cannabis stores either open or licensed to open in Canada’s provinces, according to a review of regulators’ websites.

Put another way, there are 0.8 stores for every 100,000 people. Colorado, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, has about 10 recreational outlets for every 100,000 residents, according to a recent analysis from AltaCorp Capital, which referred to the state as a “mature” market. To match Colorado’s retail density, the provinces would need to add roughly 3,400 stores.

Depending where you look, the shortfall differs greatly. For instance, Newfoundland and Labrador has more cannabis stores than Ontario, serving a population that is 3.6 per cent of the size.


Drilling down further, here are the number of stores for every 100,000 people by census division. (A census division is a group of neighbouring municipalities; some examples are Greater Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto.)


Cannabis stores

per 100K

population

10.0 to 12.5

7.5 to 10.0

5.0 to 7.5

2.5 to 5.0

>0 to 2.5

None

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: PROVINCIAL REGULATORS,

STATSCAN

Cannabis stores

per 100K

population

10.0 to 12.5

7.5 to 10.0

5.0 to 7.5

2.5 to 5.0

>0 to 2.5

None

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: PROVINCIAL REGULATORS, STATSCAN

Cannabis stores

per 100K population

Alberta has 2.4

stores for every

100,000 residents

10.0 to 12.5

7.5 to 10.0

5.0 to 7.5

2.5 to 5.0

>0 to 2.5

None

Ten of 49 census divisions

in Ontario has a cannabis

retail store

Newfoundland and

Labrador has 4.8

stores for every

100,000 residents

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: PROVINCIAL REGULATORS, STATSCAN

Cannabis stores

per 100K population

Alberta has 2.4

stores for every

100,000 residents

Newfoundland and

Labrador has 4.8

stores for every

100,000 residents

10.0 to 12.5

7.5 to 10.0

5.0 to 7.5

2.5 to 5.0

>0 to 2.5

None

Ten of 49 census divisions

in Ontario has a cannabis

retail store

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: PROVINCIAL REGULATORS, STATSCAN

Cannabis stores

per 100K population

Alberta has 2.4

stores for every

100,000 residents

10.0 to 12.5

7.5 to 10.0

Newfoundland and

Labrador has 4.8

stores for every

100,000 residents

5.0 to 7.5

2.5 to 5.0

>0 to 2.5

None

Ten of 49 census divisions

in Ontario has a cannabis

retail store

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: PROVINCIAL REGULATORS, STATSCAN


The vast majority of census divisions do not have a cannabis store, with a large portion of absences in Ontario and Quebec.

Story continues below advertisement

However, Alberta’s rollout is notable. More than 100 stores have either opened or received approvals to do so, and that figure will ramp up significantly in the coming months. The province last week lifted a retail moratorium, and will issue five new licences each week from a slate of 115 applications that were already approved.

That puts Alberta on pace to have 216 cannabis shops by late October, or five for every 100,000 residents, based on the most recent population figures. Retail stores are run exclusively by the private sector, and the provincial regulator has allowed the sector to scale up quickly.


Edmonton

Number of

cannabis stores

Calgary

30 to 40

20 to 30

10 to 20

1 to 10

None

Division No. 11, home to Edmonton, has 32

stores either open or licensed to open, as of

May 31st.

Division No. 6, which includes Calgary, has 31

stores open or licensed to open.

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: AGLC

Edmonton

Number of

cannabis stores

Calgary

30 to 40

20 to 30

10 to 20

1 to 10

None

Division No. 11, home to Edmonton, has 32 stores either

open or licensed to open, as of May 31st.

Division No. 6, which includes Calgary, has 31 stores open

or licensed to.

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: AGLC

Number of

cannabis stores

30 to 40

20 to 30

10 to 20

1 to 10

None

Edmonton

Division No. 11, home to Edmonton,

has 32 stores either open or licensed

to open, as of May 31st.

Calgary

Division No. 6, which includes Calgary,

has 31 stores open or licensed to.

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: AGLC


The same can’t be said for Ontario. Last summer, the new Progressive Conservative government said the private sector would handle brick-and-mortar stores, marking a significant departure from the previous Liberal government’s plan. For that reason, the first physical stores did not open until April, and there are now 0.14 stores for every 100,000 residents in Canada’s most populous province.

In Peel Region – home to Brampton, Mississauga and 1.4 million people – there are 0.02 stores for every 100,000 residents, making it home to the worst store supply in the country, among census divisions with cannabis shops. That figure is not much better in Toronto or Durham Region, east of the city.

Then again, broad swaths of the province have no stores. They include York Region (population: 1.1 million), Waterloo Region (535,000), Simcoe Region (480,000) and everywhere north of Sudbury.


Cannabis stores per

100K population

10.0 to 12.5

7.5 to 10.0

5.0 to 7.5

2.5 to 5.0

>0 to 2.5

None

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: AGCO, STATSCAN

Cannabis stores per

100K population

10.0 to 12.5

7.5 to 10.0

5.0 to 7.5

2.5 to 5.0

>0 to 2.5

None

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: AGCO, STATSCAN

Cannabis stores

per 100K population

10.0 to 12.5

7.5 to 10.0

5.0 to 7.5

2.5 to 5.0

>0 to 2.5

None

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: AGCO, STATSCAN


Of course, cannabis users have been able to purchase product online since Day One of legalization. However, the lopsided storefront supply is apparent in sales figures.

In March, Albertan retailers sold about $14.5-million of cannabis, or nearly double the amount of Ontario, according to Statistics Canada. After adjusting for population – Alberta is less than one-third the size of Ontario – the sales gap is even more pronounced.

“Canadian consumers have shown a distinct preference for shopping in-store,” Prof. Armstrong says.

He notes that reports from four provincial agencies – in Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island – showed the “vast majority” of sales were made at physical stores.

Why is that? Prof. Armstrong floats a few theories. He says cannabis is an “experiential product” that many consumers want to see and smell before purchasing. Further, both first-time and experienced users may need to speak with a sales clerk to glean information not on a website. Plus, Prof. Armstrong notes, some may want the anonymity of buying in-person.

For Ontario, the bricks-and-mortar impact will soon be evident. Statscan’s next monthly release of retail sales will be the first that accounts for the province’s physical outlets. As such, Prof. Armstrong expects April cannabis sales in Ontario to be roughly double the dollar figure of March.

“Even with that small number of stores, I suspect you’re going to get a drastic increase in Ontario’s sales over the next few months.”

Story continues below advertisement

Available now: Cannabis Professional, the authoritative news service tailored specifically for professionals in the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Start your 5-day free trial now.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies