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Weed outselling booze in some areas as Canada preps for isolation

March 20, 2020

If you’ve been to a grocery store in the past week, you’ve probably witnessed an apocalyptic scene with shelves bare of dried and canned beans, pasta (except for lasagna noodles), milk and, the first to go, toilet paper.

But household supplies and non-perishables aren’t the only things Canadians are stocking up on. The legal recreational cannabis space has seen a surge in business since fear-based shopping began rippling across the nation earlier this month.

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Last week we saw a 26% increase in beverage alcohol sales and a 45% increase in cannabis sales.

Beverley Ware, NSLC spokesperson

On the East Coast, cannabis is even outselling booze.

“Last week we saw a 26% increase in beverage alcohol sales and a 45% increase in cannabis sales,” says Beverley Ware, a spokesperson at the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation, which operates the provincial cannabis stores. She assured us they have “plenty of stock” and noted that their in-store hours have been limited because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the NSLC Cannabis stores are still open for business as usual online.

In Ontario, online sales have doubled at the government-run Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) in the past week.

“The interesting thing is that it’s a lot of new customers buying online and trusting that channel for the first time; they’re making repeat purchases as well,” says Daffyd Roderick, director of communications at the OCS. “It’s nice to see that people have the ability to purchase online and get products they want.”

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Neighbouring Quebec is feeling it, too.

“Indeed we have seen an increase in sales over the last days,” says Fabrice Giguère, spokesperson at the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC).

SQDC wouldn’t provide exact numbers, but it did confirm that parcels are continuing to be mailed out, despite a change in delivery methods from various shipping services across the country, including Canada Post.


Independently-owned cannabis stores also see sales spike

While British Columbia’s government-run BC Cannabis Store also wasn’t willing to disclose sales data, privately-owned cannabis stores, like Kiaro, which has multiple locations in both BC and Saskatchewan, are watching orders increase.

Kiaro is currently seeing a sales increase of 10% daily at its brick-and-mortar shops, which remain open.

“The situation is dynamic and unknown,” says Eleanor Lynch, vice president of operations at Kiaro. “We will work closely with community leaders to ensure customers continue to be safe while still providing steady employment to our team members.”

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COVID-19 restrictions sparking a run on cannabis stores

While many people are self-isolating or quarantining themselves at home and therefore switching to online shopping, some still rely on the in-store experience. Kairo does not have an online retail space and is even opening a new brick-and-mortar location in Port Moody, BC this week, despite the global pandemic and warning to stay home.

Still, Lynch says health and safety remains their top concern.

“Our store managers have done a tremendous job balancing the safety needs of staff and customers, with the obligation to provide access to safe legal recreational cannabis,” she says.

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Will Canada sell out of cannabis?

Despite this sudden demand, those we spoke with don’t expect cannabis to sell out, and retailers are working closely with licensed producers to ensure there’s enough inventory to meet demand. So, before you start stashing away extra containers of Pink Kush, know that, at this point, there’s still plenty of bud to go around.

Lisa Felepchuk's Bio Image
Lisa Felepchuk

Lisa Felepchuk is a seasoned lifestyle editor, writer and digital nomad based in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia.

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