A man smokes a marijuana joint during the annual 4/20 marijuana celebration on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, April 20, 2018. Statistics Canada says Canadians spent $908 million on non-medical cannabis since legalization and much of the population lives relatively close to a cannabis store. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Canadians have spent $908 million at recreational cannabis stores since legalization, StatCan

OTTAWA — 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.

The agency says Canadians spent $24 per capita at cannabis stores from Oct. 17, 2018, when cannabis was legalized, to the end of September 2019.

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.

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.

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 percent of Canadians lived three kilometers from a cannabis store as of July 2019. Thirty percent lived 30 kilometers away and 45 percent lived within 10 kilometers.

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

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

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

Featured Image: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang