Why Vancouver has 100’s of dispensaries yet BC only has 1 legal cannabis store

Looks like the lone legal cannabis store in BC (in Kamloops, of all places!) will soon be getting some company, as BC Attorney General David Eby told CBC:

“There’s no question that over the next period of weeks and months, they’re going to see more and more stores coming online, both public and private.”

But, like he said, that’s still weeks or months away. For those of you who want your legal cannabis now, your only options are to drive to Kamloops or order online.

The BC government’s official cannabis website is here, but once you get over the novelty of the government selling you cannabis, you’ll realize you’ll still have to wait for it to be delivered in the mail (which will arrive within two days), which means that most British Columbians on Legalization Day were probably smoking the green from their usual source- so much for fighting that black market, eh?

Legalization will have no impact on the black market until legal cannabis is easier to access than the black market, and with all of legal cannabis’ geographic and timing issues, that won’t be happening for weeks and months (at least). And that’s only talking about the convenience aspect- we haven’t even touched on quality!

So while it’s good from a customer point-of-view to hear that the government plans on opening more legal cannabis stores across the province, it was still a massive fail that BC only had one open by legalization day.

Many of the unlicensed cannabis retailers blame the BC government’s slow application and community consultation process for why they aren’t operating legally yet.

What about all of Vancouver’s dispensaries?

Vancouver has just over a hundred dispensaries operating within city limits- the vast majority of which are still technically illegal. While much fanfare was made back when the City of Vancouver began regulating and licensing dispensaries a few years ago, only about a third of those dispensaries have had any success getting through the onerous and expensive licensing system.

With legalization, not only do establishments need to meet Vancouver’s requirement, they must now meet BC’s requirements, adding another layer of bureaucracy.

As COV spokesperson Jag Sandhu told CBC:

“We do not have a timeline on when the first store will open as it will depend on the applicant completing the process and fulfilling all provincial and municipal requirements.”

In the meantime, some dispensaries have chosen to remain open while others have voluntarily closed down in the hopes of getting a license (and as encouraged by the city)

I guess while the City of Vancouver was one step ahead of the province, it still doesn’t do any good for the dispensaries licensed by the city that want to be legally open now as they are all still technically illegal until they go through the provincial process as well.

Other than BC, here’s the number of legal stores across the country

According to a chart prepared by Trina Fraser for Brazeau Seller Law:

  • AB: 17
  • SK: 7
  • MN: 7
  • ON: 0 (storefronts will begin opening April 2019)
  • QC: 12
  • NB: 20
  • NS: 12
  • PEI:4
  • NFL: 22
  • YK: 1
  • NWT: existing liquor stores
  • NV: no storefronts

That adds up to 103 legal stores across the country. Keyword being “legal”.

Featured image courtesy of Vancouver Courier.


CBC: BC ministers promise more pot shops in coming ‘weeks and months’.

CBC: Licensed, unlicensed: how effective are Vancouver’s dispensary bylaws?.