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Four years after legalization, B.C. cannabis sales hit all-time high

The $57.3 million spent on legal cannabis in the province in July was the most for any month ever
Jason Gaudin owns CottonMouth Boutique Cannabis Store on Davie Street.

Four years after Canada legalized adult non-medical cannabis use, legal sales continue to hit all-time highs as they chip away at black-market sales. 

While black market cannabis sales are hard to measure, Statistics Canada data for July – the most recent month for which data is available – showed British Columbians spent $57,316,000 on legal cannabis. That is the most dollars spent on legal cannabis in the province in any month since full-month data started in November 2018. It is also 17 per cent more than the $48,976,000 spent in B.C. on legal cannabis in July 2021.

July's numbers were not an aberration.

Sales for legal cannabis soared in B.C. in the first half of 2022 to $314.5 million, up more than 24 per cent from the nearly $253.8 million that British Columbians spent on legal cannabis in the same six months in 2021. 

Spending in each month this year is up considerably from the same month in 2021, with the more than $54 million spent in June being almost 22 per cent higher than the more than $44.3 million spent in June 2021.

When the nation's number cruncher releases B.C. cannabis sales data for August, likely later this month, it may be a rare month for sales to not be higher. The British Columbia General Employees' Union held a two-week strike in August, causing legal-cannabis distribution to slow to a trickle

recent Research Co. poll added more weight to the theory that the legal market across Canada is encroaching on the illegal one.

Research Co. data show that 48 per cent of cannabis-using Canadians surveyed purchased all of their products at legal retailers. That is up from 38 per cent in a similar survey one year ago. In contrast only 15 per cent of cannabis-using Canadians said that they purchased all of their cannabis from illicit sellers. 

Exactly half of Canadians surveyed said that they had tried cannabis at some point in their lives, with 39 per cent saying that they first consumed cannabis before legalization, and 11 per cent saying that their first toke was in the past four years. 

The federal government in 2019 started issuing pardons for Canadians who have criminal records for possessing cannabis. The process is for people who want to be pardoned to apply to the Parole Board of Canada. The fee was originally $631 but that is now mostly waived. As of January 1, 2022, the fee to apply for a record suspensions is $50.

Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of Canadians Research Co. surveyed agreed with the possibility of expunging cannabis-possesion convictions, while 20 per cent were opposed and 15 per cent were undecided.

Research Co. principal Mario Canseco told BIV that expunging federal cannabis-possession convictions is a complicated process that also requires buy-in from provinces because criminal records for those convictions can be stored in provincial or municipal databases in addition to federal ones. 

U.S. President Joe Biden on October 6 said that he was going to pardon convictions for Americans who have federal criminal records for cannabis possession. He also urged state governors to provide similar pardons for Americans who have state criminal records for possesssion. 

"The way in which it's structured in the U.S. is that because drug offenses are federal, [Biden] can actually do this with the stroke of a pen," Canseco said. "Trudeau could not do this. He would need to talk to the provincial governments."