Regina needs 24 cannabis stores to disrupt black market: city report

The city currently has 11 legally operating cannabis stores.

The city's number of stores may more than double if all current pending applications are approved

To disrupt the black market, a city report said the city needs 24 cannabis stores. The city currently only has 11. (David Horemans/CBC)

Regina is going to need to double the number of legal cannabis stores in the city if it wants to take away from the black market, according to a city report. 

The federal government legalized recreational cannabis in 2018. Wholesaling and retailing of cannabis is regulated by the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Association. 

One of the core objectives for legalizing cannabis for the federal government was to shift sales away from the black market and organized crime. A 2016 federal task force found the illegal trade was worth $7 billion annually. 

An April 2021 Statistics Canada study found that legalization has made a significant "dent" in the market, with about 68 per cent of Canadians obtaining at least some of their cannabis legally, compared to 23 per cent before legalization. 

Now the city has released a report on if the legal market is disrupting the black market locally and what else can be done. 

The city report said displacing the black market further will depend on the legal market offering better cost, locations and supply. The city said companies are still being restricted in their efforts to open new stores and the mature market should have one store for every 10,000 people. 

"This means Regina, with its population of 239,497, would need to host roughly 24 stores to ensure a healthy business environment to disrupt the black market," the report said. 

The city has 11 stores so far, but that may soon double. There are 14 applications with approved city permits that are awaiting final approval from the SLGA. There are also four development permits under review by the City of Regina.

"That market will always exist. But anything we can do to to offer legal cannabis sales, we believe, should continue on the trend that it's on," said Mayor Sandra Masters. 

Regina city council discussed and accepted the report on Wednesday. A report on zoning rules around cannabis stores is expected to come to council this fall.

Saskatchewan has fewer cannabis users than national average

Saskatchewan has fewer people using cannabis than elsewhere in the country, according to Statistics Canada. 

In the April report, Statistics Canada said about 14 per cent of Canadians used cannabis pre-legalization. That jumped to 20 per cent after legalization in 2020.

Saskatchewan is lower than average at 13.9 per cent. 

The city was also monitoring impacts for police. It said that in October 2019, police showed that in the first year of legalization there were no increased rates of impaired driving, no notable increases in youths consuming cannabis and no increases in workplace issues related to cannabis. 

"I think it's a good news story that cannabis is not having a negative impact on the community," Chris Holden, the city manager, said.