Manitobans mark a new dawn for recreational cannabis in Canada

Customers congregated as retail pot stores in Manitoba opened their doors to a new dawn for recreational cannabis in Canada.

The lineups were long but for most part orderly as people waited for their turn to take part in the country’s historical shift to legal pot.

“I’m going to get some marijuana and I’ve been waiting 50 years for this,” said Hubert Bergeron as he stood in line outside a retail cannabis store in Transcona operated by Tweed. “The whole country is going to be changing because of this and I think it’s about time.”

You can now purchase, possess, and consume marijuana produced and sold by licensed growers and retailers, a change that brings an end to Canada’s 95-year prohibition on pot through government regulations and restrictions.

The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba has so far approved the opening of seven retail stores across Manitoba in the following locations:

Dauphin:

  • Tweed/Canopy, 1450 Main Street South

Winnipeg:

  • Delta 9 Cannabis Store, Unit 1 – 827 Dakota Street
  • Hiku/Tokyo Smoke, 55B Goulet Street
  • Meta Cannabis Supply Co./National Access Cannabis, Unit 23 – 584 Pembina Highway
  • Tweed/Canopy, 120 Osborne Street
  • Tweed/Canopy, 1592 Regent Avenue
  • Hiku/Tokyo Smoke, 54-70 Arthur Street

Every retail outlet in Manitoba has its own unique look inside but they all share similar traits, from glass display cases to marijuana merchandise, store-branded clothing and of course the main feature: the cannabis.

“I could say inside there it’s very professional, they have everything laid out very well in the store,” said Alexis Freeman outside Tweed’s Osborne Village location. “I didn’t think it was going to look like that when I got in there.”

While many people celebrated legalization, others noted they were paying a higher price for pot today than they have in the past.

That’s in part because cannabis sold in government-approved stores includes markups and taxes, and some say the cost of legal marijuana could drive people back into the black market.

“The price point is a little higher,” said recreational marijuana customer Neil, who didn’t want to give his last name.

According to crowdsourced data collected by Statistics Canada over the past 10 and a half months, the average price per gram for medicinal and black market cannabis has been going for an average of $7.34 on the prairies and $6.86 across Canada.

Recreational retailer Meta Cannabis on Pembina Hwy. is pricing its bud between $8 and $15 and up per gram before GST, depending on the strain.

It’s a price range in line with other retail cannabis stores in Manitoba.

“We really have focused on making sure we have a diverse lineup so if you want the more value-based brands then we have that solution,” said Meta’s VP of Marketing Matt Ryan. “If you want the premium or potent bud that’s more expensive we’ve got that as well.”

The federal government said the goal of legalization is to prevent pot profits from going into the pockets of criminal organizations and street gangs.

University of Winnipeg economics professor Phil Cyrenne said higher prices for legal pot could keep customers going to the black market.

“These have been long established supply networks,” said Cyrenne. “I’d be surprised if the people tomorrow who are buying from their suppliers, traditional suppliers say ‘well I’m not buying from you anymore.'”

“The competition from the legal supplies might improve the quality of the illegal supplies. Now there’s another source.”

Despite higher prices Neil said he’s willing to give the new way of buying a chance.

“They tell you on the street it’s a certain thing but when you light it up it’s not that, right,” said Neil. “In here (the government-regulated stores), it’s regulated, you know what you’re buying, you know what you’re getting, you know the strength.”

The price you see in stores or online is set by retailers and already includes federal excise tax and a wholesale markup of $0.75 per gram plus an additional nine per cent applied by Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries.

The GST isn’t applied until you hit the checkout, in store or online.

To keep prices competitive the Manitoba government has not applied the provincial sales tax to recreational marijuana but it will start collecting a Social Responsibility Fee from retailers effective Jan.1, 2019.