by Colin Bambury
Canada has chosen to allow each province to create its own regulations for the legal cannabis industry. Legalization will look vastly different depending on what part of the country you live in. Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick have all announced a strictly government-controlled public retail system. The provinces that have selected a free market approach are Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland.
This decision means that Alberta will likely be the go-to province for cannabis entrepreneurs looking to set up shop when recreational sales become legal next summer. Cannabis will be sold in privately owned retail stores and there is currently no limit on the number. Could Alberta be Canada’s equivalent to Colorado or Washington?
Alberta was once the most booming economy in Canada with a higher per capita GDP than all US states. In 2014 crude oil prices collapsed and had devastating effects. However, Alberta is expected to lead the country in economic growth in 2017. Jobs are returning but the province is still looking at new ways to improve. The emerging cannabis industry presents a giant economic opportunity.
In a report from analysts at Expert Market from this year, Calgary is ranked as the second best tech hub in which to live and work in Canada. The Calgary tech industry is flourishing thanks to partnerships between the city, universities and businesses, and took the top spot for average salary. The Stampede City is perfectly positioned to become the capital of Canada’s marijuana industry.
British Columbia has long been famous for its quality cannabis products, knowledge and expertise. Alberta is situated right next to BC, which allows for strategic relationships with some of the most established businesses in the Canadian cannabis industry. Western Canada is shaping up to be the better half of the nation for marijuana enthusiasts.
Alberta has the second highest number of medical marijuana users in the country (74 000). There is already a demand for legal cannabis in the province and many medicinal users will switch to recreational outlets when regulated. Having the highest number of medical marijuana users per capita means that the stigma surrounding cannabis isn’t as prevalent in Alberta as other parts of the country. These factors will lead to a burgeoning consumer market in the province.
There are four Health Canada Licensed Producers currently operating in Alberta. This includes Aurora Cannabis, which is the second largest LP on the market. Some important businesses are betting on the “Texas of the North” but there is still much room for entrepreneurs. The other Alberta-based LPs are Acreage Pharms, GrenEx Pharms and Sundial Growers. These three currently only have the license to cultivate cannabis. Aurora is the only one in the province with a sales license.
The Alberta Finance Minister is against the idea of taxing cannabis $1 per gram. The Alberta government wants to keep prices competitive and taxes low (no sales tax) so that the black market will diminish. This is potentially a good thing for both consumers and small businesses.
Alberta claims that it is not expecting to make a lot of money from the weed business. However, they seem to be setting up the perfect environment for the cannabis industry to prosper and expand. The Alberta government and Finance Minister may be pleasantly surprised by the amount of economic activity legalization will bring to the province.