It’s been one year since recreational cannabis was legalized in Canada but supply is still an issue in Lethbridge.
“It’s hard to match up with the supply,” said Gurdeep Singh, the director of west-side cannabis store, Nirvana.
The first local store opened its doors in November last year, with six more opening shortly after. Supply, however, quickly became a problem and the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) issued a suspension on new cannabis licences.
This left some business owners with leases, including Singh, paying rent on empty stores.
“I was paying rent for six to seven months and it was getting hard,” he said. “Every month… paying rent without any revenue coming.”
AGLC lifted the moratorium at the end of May after seeing an increase in supply and Lethbridge now has a total of 15 retailers.
Singh was able to open his store in July and three months later, he said the wait is paying off. One issue, however, remains: supply.
The supply shortage isn’t just something the newer cannabis stores are dealing with — it’s also something the original locations struggle with.
“A few months ago it was getting much better but now there’s a lot more stores on the market so things are kind of, I feel in a way, going back to square one,” said Mitch Caldwell, co-manager of Twenty Four Karats, the second cannabis store to open in the city.
Although supply still isn’t meeting demand, Caldwell said he is optimistic as edibles, extracts and topicals are now legal.
“It’s going to increase the amount of SKUs that we carry a great deal,” he explained.
“I think that will actually give the dry flower a little bit of time to catch up so the producers can actually grow some more stock and actually supply the stores.”
The new cannabis products are expected to hit the shelves in December.
Another concern when cannabis was legalized one year ago was a potential spike in drug-related driving incidents. Lethbridge police, however, said this has not been the case, as they’ve only issued 14 exams related to drug-impaired driving in the past year.
“A lot of [officers] were really [unsure] about what was going to happen,” said Sgt. Rod Pastoor of the traffic response unit.
“We were expecting the worst and preparing for the worst and luckily it didn’t come to that. So I’m quite happy. Although 14 is still a lot. We want to obviously see that come down to zero.”
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