Calgary

10 new cannabis retail licences issued in Alberta

The provincial government says supply has made "a modest improvement" in recent weeks, prompting Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) to add the new licenses.

Owners of some existing shops irked by the move, saying it could worsen supply issues

Alberta has issued 10 new licences for retail cannabis stores. (David Horemans/CBC)

Alberta has issued 10 new licences for retail cannabis shops, upsetting the owners of some existing ones.

Retail stores have complained about shortages in supply since legalization last October. The provincial government says supply has made "a modest improvement" in recent weeks, prompting Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) to add the new licenses.

"Who figures inventory levels are improving? Quite frankly, they've been dropping for the last couple of weeks," said Peter Boyne, managing director of Beltline Cannabis in Calgary.

"My order next week and the order this week are the smallest yet."

Only a month after legalization, AGLC announced it had received only 20 per cent of the cannabis ordered to supply 250 stores for six months. There has been a shortage across Canada ever since, and in response, Alberta capped retail stores at 65 until Friday's announcement, which brings the total licences to 75.

Numo Cannabis in Edmonton is one of several Alberta pot shops that has had to close its door temporarily because it ran out of cannabis. (CBC/Anna McMillan)

Boyne says he barely has enough product to keep his store open six hours a day, so he was stunned to hear the announcement.

"We have regulars that come in all the time asking for certain products and that's unfortunately the answer, it has been very often, 'sorry, we can't get it yet,'" he said.

Andrew Freedman knows a fair bit about cannabis shortages. He's the former director of marijuana coordination in Colorado, which legalized cannabis before Canada. He said it can take years before demand strikes a balance with legal supply.

"I think regardless of how you roll it out it's going to take about a year to 18 months for supply to really be able to be in competition with black market," Freedman said.

"That's simply because there's a huge amount of capital outlay for cultivation to be able to produce a brand new, billion-dollar market."

About 150 people lined up outside Four20 Premium Market in Calgary on Oct. 17, one of the first retail cannabis stores to open in the city. Supply has been an issue since legalization. (Mike Symington/CBC)

AGLC says it's "in discussions" with another 12 licensed cannabis producers in order to secure more product.

"We are confident the inventory can accommodate an additional 10 retail locations," AGLC president and CEO Alain Maisonneuve said in a statement Friday.

"AGLC continues to work with our licensed producers and current retailers towards solutions that will support a sustainable marketplace.

The 10 new licenses will be offered to those who met all conditions before the moratorium on licenses in November.

With files from Elissa Carpenter and Colleen Underwood