British Columbia·Greenlit

Will 31 licensed producers and 1 government store be enough to meet B.C.'s weed needs?

When marijuana becomes legal later this year, all supply and distribution will happen through the B.C. Liquor Distribution Board. But will it be able to meet the demand for its product?

Starting in October, the B.C. LDB will supply cannabis for the entire province. Will it have enough?

All legal cannabis distribution will be handled by the B.C. LDB starting in October, but even the province admits it's not sure what to expect in terms of demand for its product. (Ellen Jaskol/GrowForce)

When marijuana becomes legal later this year, all supply and distribution will happen through the B.C. Liquor Distribution Board (LDB).

But will it be able to meet the demand for its product?

Earlier this week, the LDB announced it had inked tentative deals with 31 producers to source cannabis for sale both in licensed private stores and the lone government-run store, currently set to open in Kamloops.

But some of the producers on that list are still waiting to secure the recreational and/or medical cannabis production licenses they'll need to supply the product to the province once legalization happens.

In such a new market, it's not even clear whether 31 producers will be enough.

"There is no magic number," said Viviana Zanocco, spokesperson for the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch.

"Just because you have 31 licensed producers doesn't mean you have X amount [of product]."

A moving target

Ali Wasuk is a managing partner with WestCanna, a licensed medical cannabis dispensary in Vancouver. Wasuk isn't worried about competition from government stores. But he is worried about the LDB's ability to meet his supply needs.

"There's not going to be nearly enough," Wasuk said. He believes the LDB needs to triple, even quadruple its supplier base.

"Those people that don't feel comfortable [buying cannabis now] are going to hop on and come in and I think it's just going to increase [sales] volume come October."

It's in the interest of dispensary owners like Wasuk to call for more supply. But even the LDB admits it's not entirely sure how much supply it needs.

"At this time, I think we are well equipped and well stocked and well prepared to meet the needs of British Columbians as soon as legalization occurs," Zanocco said.

"[But] once the market develops and people switch over to the public cannabis stores and the private retail stores that are licensed and operating legally, then we'll see what demand is like and adapt from there."

Cannabis is currently on track to become legal in Canada by Oct. 17.

With files from Rohit Joseph and CBC Radio One's On the Coast. Listen to the full Greenlit column below:

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