Alberta is rapidly emerging as one of Canada’s leading markets for recreational cannabis.

The reason?

Its progressive approach to marijuana retail.

Via Bloomberg,

Alberta’s comparatively liberal regulatory regime suggests it will rank among the fastest-growing provincial cannabis markets,’ Arcview and BDS said.

The western province, where retailers are privately run, is expected to open more than 200 licensed stores in the first year of legalization compared with fewer than 50 in each of the other provinces.”

However, while cannabis retailing in Alberta is certainly growing fast, projections for 200 to 250 licensed cannabis stores by the end of 2019 may be overly optimistic.

The Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Comission (AGLC)—the government agency responsible for regulating recreational cannabis in Alberta—hasn’t budged on its cannabis license moratorium since last January, when they granted 10 new licenses to bring the the total number of licensed Albertan cannabis retailers to 75.

Since 17 licensed cannabis stores were already open in October 2018, that means that only 58 new cannabis retail licenses have been granted since recreational cannabis’ legalization 6 months ago—equating to roughly 10 new stores every month.

If we base our projections off of this pace, it quickly becomes clear that the 200 to 250 store figure for 2019 is likely out of reach.

But despite questions over just how fast Alberta’s retail cannabis sector is growing, there’s no question that it is.

Via Bloomberg,

“Alberta . . . accounted for 38 percent of Canada’s pot sales in 2018 despite having less than 12 percent of its population . . . while Ontario had 36 percent of sales and 39 percent of the population.”

Interestingly enough, the majority of Alberta’s cannabis retail stores (approximately 40%) are located outside large metropolitan areas like Edmonton and Calgary, according to information publicly available on the AGLC’s website. 

Alberta’s Cannabis Market Has Significant Room For Growth

While Alberta may currently have the largest cannabis retail footprint in all of Canada, the fact that the majority of these cannabis stores are scattered throughout smaller Albertan towns and cities suggests that Alberta’s most populous areas (ie. Edmonton and Calgary) are underserved. Furthermore, while the dispersion of cannabis retail stores across Alberta is certainly economically inclusive, it fails to capture the full potential of Alberta’s recreational cannabis market.

With valuations in Canada’s marijuana sector increasingly under pressure, it is up to organizations like the AGLC to ensure a cannabis retail framework that supports public safety—and investor confidence.