When Alberta ends a moratorium, they’re serious about it.
The province began the year with applications for new cannabis retail licenses frozen, which retailers claimed cost them millions.
In January, Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis said even if they lifted the moratorium, delays related to background checks and bureaucratic snags would mean stores couldn’t open anyway.
At that point, few would have guessed how sizeable a lead Alberta would have on other provinces in the number of adult-use cannabis stores in operation by the end of the summer.
But with the provincial decision to thaw the moratorium in the last week of May, things began to change in Alberta.
When AGLC announced it had approved 115 applications predating the moratorium and would grant licenses to five per week for the ensuing 23 weeks, the province already had 104 cannabis stores. Calgary alone had 29—more than all of Ontario—and that was the most in the country to begin with.
As Ontario insisted it could not open stores due to “the supply situation,” Alberta determined within a month it had enough available supply to license 20 new stores per week, instead of five, as analysts predicted that within five years the province would sell more than $900M worth of cannabis products annually.
In July, some were excited that Alberta might hit 200 stores by the end of the month, but less than halfway through August, the province hit 254 licensed adult-use stores.
Of those stores, 57 are in Calgary, serving a population of 1.3M.
Ontario continues to soldier on with 24 stores for its more than 14M residents.