Priced too high? Shoppers balk at marijuana price tag

Cannabis sales were brisk around New Brunswick on the first day of legalized retailing, despite prices on many products that appeared to be the highest in Canada.

The first shopper at Cannabis NB's Main Street location in Moncton left without a purchase

New Brunswick pot prices seem to be the highest in Canada. (Julia Wright / CBC)

Cannabis sales were brisk around New Brunswick on the first day of legalized retailing, despite prices on many products that appeared to be the highest in Canada.

Dameon Pettis was one of the first shoppers let into the Cannabis NB store on Moncton's Main Street but left without making a purchase.

"The prices are just not in our price range, honestly," said Pettis. "I feel they should be lowered, but I guess in time.  Nothing happens overnight."

Cannabis products offered for sale this week vary among provinces, making comprehensive pricing comparisons difficult. But on popular items for sale across the country, it was hard to find any province charging more than New Brunswick.

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

One item for sale on Wednesday almost everywhere was a whole cannabis flower called Lemon Skunk by the global company DNA Genetics.

In New Brunswick, it was selling for $15.50 for a single gram including taxes, the most expensive price listed across Canada.  

In Prince Edward Island, the same product was retailing for $14.50. In Newfoundland and Labrador, it was $14, and in Nova Scotia, it was $13.43.

Prices were lower still west of the region including in Ontario ($13.25), Manitoba ($12.60) and British Columbia ($11.22).

Competitive prices

Cannabis NB president Brian Harriman said last week the new Crown corporation does not have instructions to maximize profits, and pricing in New Brunswick would be "competitive" and set low enough to stomp out much of the the illegal market.

"Obviously we're not going to get into a price war with the black market," Harriman said during an interview on Information Morning Fredericton.

"Our goal is to shrink the illegal market and the reason we feel confident we can — we'll be priced competitively to today's [illegal] price — but [also] for similar reasons why people don't go to bootleggers anymore. 

The CBC's Julia Wright walks you through what buying legal weed in New Brunswick will be like. 2:01

"When you have the opportunity to come into a Cannabis NB store with 250 products available with an educated person there to help you make the right choices, and it's legal and it's safe — we think that shopping experience will be better than the current illegal one."

Cannabis NB is budgeting for about $8 million per month in sales in its first year, but Harriman said it has no "profit mandate" from the province.

Still, pricing on products on opening day were at the higher end of what other provinces have settled on.

Highest pricing in Canada

In Saint John, Shawna Cormier bought a pre-rolled joint from Edison called City Lights, which Cannabis NB prices at $7.50.

"It's a little more expensive, but we're celebrating," said Cormier.

But the exact same purchase is $1 less in both P.E.I. and Nova Scotia, a difference common across a number of products.

For example, on Wednesday, Cannabis NB was selling the bud Kinky Kush by the Ontario grower CannTrust for $8.99 per gram, 13 per cent more than Ontario was charging.  

And while a 15-gram bottle of indica buds from the company Plain Packaging cost $119.99 in New Brunswick, it was $11 cheaper in Newfoundland and Labrador as well as Nova Scotia, and $25.19 less in Quebec.

Nevertheless, Cannabis NB is projecting no profit for itself this year and insists making money is not its objective.

Shawna Cormier made a purchase on Wednesday, despite what she calls expensive prices. (CBC)

"The province is not looking at it [cannabis] as a financial opportunity or as an economic mandate," said Harriman.

"They're saying to us, 'Help us shrink the illegal market. Help us protect our kids. Let's regulate it and control it. Let's make sure we provide a good shopping experience and make it available across the province.'"

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About the Author

Robert Jones

Reporter

Robert Jones has been a reporter and producer with CBC New Brunswick since 1990. His investigative reports on petroleum pricing in New Brunswick won several regional and national awards and led to the adoption of price regulation in 2006.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton