New Brunswick

Cannabis NB prices are higher than illegal market prices

Cannabis NB claims putting illegal pot dealers out of business is its primary objective in New Brunswick but it appears to be the only retailer in the region not offering at least one product that can compete with street prices.

Provincial pot retailer relying on the shopping experience to win customers over from the black market

Cannabis NB is unique in Atlantic Canada in not carrying any product priced at or below the average price of the black market. (Julia Wright / CBC)

Cannabis NB claims putting illegal pot dealers out of business is its primary objective in New Brunswick but it appears to be the only retailer in the region not offering at least one product that can compete with street prices, betting instead on a better shopping experience to win customers over.

"Our goal is to shrink the illegal market," said Cannabis NB President Brian Harriman in a CBC interview last week.

"Our target market is existing users," he said. "We don't have a mandate to grow the category.  What we would like to do is have as many of the existing cannabis users in the province over the age of 19 choose to buy from us."

Earlier this month, Statistics Canada reported the consensus street price for cannabis among users in Atlantic Canada over the summer hovered around $7.09 per gram.

As legal sales began this week all Atlantic provinces had at least one product for sale in that price range or below — except New Brunswick.

Dameon Pettis was the first shopper to walk out of a Cannabis NB store in Moncton, but he left empty handed. (CBC)

In Nova Scotia, the official provincial retailer NSLC Cannabis has a wide variety of products available including two from Trailblazer for sale at $6.33 per gram (tax included) when purchased in 30 gram lots.  

Trailblazer is a brand owned by New Brunswick grower Oranigram Holdings Inc. 

Thirty grams is a large amount — about a seven week supply for an average Atlantic Canadian user, according to Statistics Canada — but NSLC Cannabis spokesperson Beverly Ware told CBC News it was important to take note of what users currently pay when developing various pricing options. 

"We looked at the current illicit market prices, of course," she said.  "It's not our intention to match these illicit market prices because there is an additional cost to ensure we have a safe and secure supply but we are constantly monitoring that and reviewing our prices."

In Newfoundland and Labrador, CannabisNL listed prices as low as $6.75 per gram (tax included) on some product like "The Optimist" by Ontario grower EVE, when purchased in 30 gram lots, although those were not available in the province on opening day.   

In PEI, the province's Cannabis Management Corporation had a variety of products by  Plain Packaging for sale as low as $7.27 per gram (tax included) when purchased in 15 gram lots.

Zach Currie is the director of cannabis operations in PEI and said pricing is a judgment call in each jurisdiction. 

"We feel as though we've maintained that balancing act of staying competitive but not encouraging overconsumption through extremely cheap, cheap prices."  said Currie. 

"Different provinces have different strategies."

In New Brunswick, Cannabis NB is charging some of the highest prices for product generally, but also has some of the most expensive low-end pricing.  

On its website this week its lowest prices are, like PEI, also for products by the company Plain Packaging. But even with a volume purchase of 15 grams, the lowest prices will drop in New Brunswick is to $8 per gram.  That's 10 percent more than PEI and 26 percent more than the lowest prices offered in Nova Scotia.

There were long line-ups on Day 1 of recreational cannabis sales in Rothesay - but crowds subsided significantly in the ensuing weeks and months. The corporation has cancelled its third-party, temporary security contract. (Julia Wright / CBC)

Harriman believes better quality cannabis, and a safe and legal shopping experience should be enough to overcome better prices on the street.

"We're not going to get into a price war with the black market," he said. 

"At the end of the day we're providing a service to the legal age population here in the province who choose to enjoy."

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